The District 6-AAA shootout people expected between the Warren County High School football team and Cookeville Cavaliers looked like it was revving up when both teams scored in the first six minutes, but the Pioneers ran out of bullets quickly.
After Warren County took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a touchdown, Cookeville scored 42 straight points to crush the Pioneers 42-13 Friday night in a battle of district unbeatens.
Warren County (1-4) was quick out of the gate as quarterback Lee Carden found Mitchell Ashford for a 23-yard touchdown to cap a 10-play, 72-yard drive with 8:38 to play in the first quarter. It would be part of a historical night for Ashford as the senior wide receiver set the career receptions record at Warren County High School when he hauled in his 60th career catch in the fourth quarter.
The Pioneers looked like they had set a pace reserved for a track meet when they scored in less than four minutes, but Cookeville didn’t seem bothered by the frantic style.
The Cavaliers responded emphatically, scoring in five plays to take the lead for good. Quarterback Ryan Eberle hit Jeff Riedel in stride on a crossing pattern that went 33 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes after Warren County scored.
After watching the Pioneers fail on their PAT try, Eberle decided to take matters in his own hands when the Cavaliers lined up for an extra-point attempt. Eberle took the snap, faked the kick and ran to the corner of the endzone untouched to put Cookeville ahead 8-6.
Little would go right for Warren County from there.
Cookeville forced a three-and-out on the next Pioneer possession and needed two plays to make it 14-6. Alex Sklavenitis raced 47 yards to the Pioneer 2, then scored on the next play as Cookeville began to run away with the game.
After the teams traded punts on the next three possessions, the Cavaliers took a 21-6 lead with 9:20 to play in the second quarter when Cameron Germanis scored on a 4-yard TD plunge.
Warren County mounted a 13-play drive into Cookeville’s territory on its ensuing drive, but things stalled and Carden threw back-to-back incompletions to give the ball back to the Cavaliers.
Cookeville had a chance to add to its lead right before the half, but a 43-yard field goal by Tyler Wright missed wide right.
The failed kick hardly dented the Cavalier momentum though. When Cookeville retook the field, the game plan was obvious. The Cavaliers didn’t intend to throw the ball in the second half and the plan resulted in 21 points.
Cookeville ran on 28 of its 29 offensive plays in the second half, including 11 straight plays to start the third quarter. Sklavenitis finished the dominating six-minute drive with a five-yard run and Eberle added his second two-point conversion as the Cavaliers led 29-6.
Another three-and-out by Warren County led to another quick touchdown by Cookeville. After taking over the ball at the Pioneer 48, Cookeville ran a reverse to Riedel on the first play and the lanky receiver raced past the Warren County defense to paydirt.
Eberle enacted the mercy rule for the fourth time against the Pioneers this season when he scored on a 17-yard sweep to start the fourth quarter.
Facing a 42-6 deficit, Warren County abandoned the ground game and turned the offense over to Carden.
Carden immediately found Ashford for 32 yards, which gave Ashford the career reception record and his first 100-yard game of the season.
Carden would toss his sixth touchdown of the season on the final play. After connecting with Kendall Rutledge for 43 yards, Carden rushed to the line of scrimmage for one final play.
D’Andre League and Jeremiah Lance each ran down the seam and League was able to come down with the hurl from Carden just before time expired to put the Pioneers back on the board. Evan Reynolds added the extra point with 1.8 seconds to play, but the final score didn’t do much to ease the minds of the Pioneers following their 18th loss to Cookeville in 19 tries.
With the loss, Warren County falls to 1-1 in District 6-AAA while Cookeville improves to 2-0.
The Pioneers will return back to Nunley Stadium this Friday for homecoming against the Moore County Raiders. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.