It was an evening in which weather looked to be part of the 2012 home and season opener for the Claiborne Bulldogs as they welcomed Cocke County into town.
The rain fell just before kickoff and had stopped just in time for the fans to arrive and fill the stands on both sides of the field. The Fighting Cocks looked to have a slight advantage in experience and the standings in the pre-season polls would suggest just that as Claiborne was ranked lower in the state rankings than Cocke County.
The Bulldogs came onto the wet field and took it to the Fighting Cocks on their first series. They drove the ball using a mix of passing and rushing to take an early lead behind the play of Joseph Ledford, Wade Williams and Paul Estep. Line play on the opening drive was exceptional for the Bulldogs as they had their way with the Cocke Co. defensive line. Immediately following the opening drive the Fighting Cocks knew they were in for a long battle. The Bulldog defense forced the Cocke County offense into a punting situation on their first offensive series giving the home fans optimism. Ross Chadwell, Jeremy Hurst and others kept the defensive pressure on their opponents which led to a mistake via an interception by Paul Estep at the 5:08 mark in the opening quarter. The Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on the mistake and had to punt. Cocke Co. then scored their first TD of the game with 2:13 left in the first which gave them confidence on offense and allowed them to score 20-points by the end of the first half.
Sam Shipley made a huge play at the end of the first half when he picked off a pass and just missed taking it to the house for a score. He returned the interception 75 yards all the way to the Cocke Co. 15-yard line but the offense was unable to convert and the half ended with a 20-12 score.
In the second half, Cocke Co. used a good mix of run and pass to continue moving the chains and putting points on the board while the Bulldogs youth began to show. The third quarter was not a bad one for the Bulldog defense as it shut out Cocke Co. On the other hand, the Bulldog offense struggled to find momentum in both the third and fourth quarters. The Fighting Cocks managed two more scores in the fourth quarter and finished with a 32-12 victory.
“I was pleased with our effort and I thought we came out and played hard. We got some people hurt and had to have some of our young ones step up and they did. We got a little discombobulated at times with our substitutions but on the first ball game that’s going to happen. As far as the effort, I was pleased,” said Bulldog Coach Barry Liles after the game.
He then spoke of improvements needed prior to the next game against Gibbs.
“We have to cut out our mistakes,” he said. “When we get the ball down inside the red zone we have to score.”
Claiborne hit the road this Friday night to battle another good Gibbs Eagles team with kickoff scheduled at 7:30 in Corryton, Tennessee. Gibbs traveled to and defeated Scott County 41-14 in their season opener.