Rivalry games can sometimes be a letdown. Friday night wasn’t one of those times.
The 14th installment of the border battle between the Tigers and Pioneers went back and forth five times, with DeKalb County only assuring victory when it hauled in an interception at midfield in the final minute.
The win knotted the series at 7-7 each, something DeKalb County coach Steve Trapp probably knows by heart. His first game with the Tigers was when the series started in 2005, so he knows better than anybody what a win in this rivalry means.
“The first three years, they had our number. Then we had a few years in a row,” said Trapp. “It’s been back and forth since with some really good games. It’s an exciting atmosphere and I’m really glad we came out on top this year.”
It took everything the Tigers had.
Some coaches may not want to empty the cupboard in the first game. Trapp and Pioneer coach Tom Moore don’t subscribe to that thought process.
Trapp showed immediate trust in sophomore quarterback Axel Aldino, who finished with 182 total yards and two touchdowns. Trapp allowed Aldino to make calls at the line, including the game’s first score – a 46-yard touchdown pass where the sophomore saw a look he thought he could exploit.
Moore answered back with trickery.
The Pioneers had a 17-yard reverse early in the third quarter. They upped the ante in the fourth, having quarterback Clay Thompson shout out fake instructions at the line on a fourth down while the direct snap hit senior Eric Haywood.
Haywood turned right, then tossed to CJ Taylor, who ripped around the left edge for a 16-yard soaring touchdown on fourth down.
The Pioneers also tried a fake punt in the fourth quarter and a double-reverse pass, where Taylor ended up hitting Thompson after the quarterback worked his way upfield.
Warren County will need to continue to find ways to keep opponents off balance, but being simple seemed to work just as well.
At times, the Pioneers looked unstoppable on the ground. Moore said all offseason his line would be a strength. They lived up to their reputation.
Haywood and Taylor were able to gash the Tigers, each hitting 150 yards while doing it in different way.
The majority of Haywood’s yard came on one play – an 85-yard sprint where he broke through a huge hole and never was touched (A quick aside: Haywood ripped off a 20-yard run late in the fourth with the Pioneers trailing where I thought Warren County was destined to win. The senior was so intense when he was pushed into his teammates, I figured he’d do it himself. Alas.)
Taylor was every bit the thunder to Haywood’s lightning, showing the ability to bust up the middle and bounce bodies backwards. Just a sophomore, Taylor has a chance to grow into something special.
Now it’s time for another rivalry. It’s on to Sparta.