Cookeville reminded Warren County Friday night just how much work the Pioneers have left to do in their rebuilding project.
The Cavaliers crushed Warren County 47-0 on their home field to improve their record to 3-0 this season. It was the second straight loss for the Pioneers after opening the season with a win over DeKalb County.
Before the season, Cookeville was picked as a co-favorite in District 6-AAA. The Cavaliers showed why in Friday’s district opener for both teams.
Vic Johnson continued his early season tear with three touchdowns, all coming in the first half, while highly coveted junior Gabe Angel scored twice for the Cavaliers. By halftime, Cookeville led 33-0 and had outgained the Pioneers 283-76. It would only get worse in the second half.
Warren County finished the game with 68 yards of total offense, including losing eight yards on nine offensive snaps in the second half. The Pioneers only had three offensive series due to the mercy rule – enacted on a 15-yard touchdown run by Cookeville quarterback Matthew Collins in the third quarter.
The Cavaliers also controlled the clock with lengthy drives throughout the game. Cookeville scored on a 15-play, 84-yard drive spanning the first and second quarter and a 10-play, 70-yard march in the fourth quarter that made it 47-0.
Exploding for big plays wasn’t a problem for the Cavaliers either.
Angel, who owns offers from Tennessee, Vanderbilt and several other SEC schools, put the Cavaliers on the board on the second play from scrimmage. Angel took a direct snap, bust through the line of scrimmage and shook off two Pioneer defenders before racing 49 yards for a touchdown. The scoring drive only took 1:03 off the clock, though Cookeville was left with a 6-0 lead when Pioneer senior Chayse Frye broke up the two-point try.
Both teams traded three-and-outs before a big break for the home team led to another touchdown. Warren County was facing second-and-two from its own 38 when quarterback Christian Wilkinson tried to hand off to one of his two running backs in the backfield. The ball caromed off the hip of the ball carrier and Cookeville dove on the fumble.
Collins connected with Zach Poston on a 33-yard catch to put the Cavaliers on the doorstep and Johnson scored two plays later from one yard out to make it 13-0.
Warren County answered with its most productive drive in the contest. Wilkinson hit senior Malik Ladet on a pair of passes that netted first downs and temporarily moved the Pioneers into Cookeville territory, but a sack ended the drive.
Warren County called on Evan Reynolds to punt, one of six times the junior would take the field. Reynolds boomed a 46-yard punt to pin the Cavaliers in the shadows of their own goal post, but the home team didn’t take long moving down the field for another score.
Johnson was the workhorse during a 15-play drive as he carried eight times. Two key runs came when the Cavaliers were facing a third-and-17 situation at the Warren County 45. Cookeville elected to run a draw and Johnson responded by pushing the pile for 14 yards. Wasting no time, Cookeville coach Jimmy Maynord decided to go for it on fourth down and Johnson carried again, this time for 19 yards on a burst over the left side.
Three plays later, Johnson plowed through the middle for four yards and his second touchdown. Cookeville missed the ensuing PAT, leaving Warren County trailing 19-0.
Warren County coach Scott Smith was the one rolling the dice on the next Pioneers possession, but his decision didn’t pay off. The Pioneers went for it on fourth-and-two from their own 27, but senior running back Bryson Lewis was stuffed for a loss of one.
The Cavaliers only needed two plays to score again. Johnson worked the left side again on a 21-yard touchdown scamper, his ninth touchdown in only three games this season.
Angel capped the first-half scoring on a 13-yard scoring run with :46 left in the first half.
Warren County tried to answer with a late score of its own, but Wilkinson threw his first interception of the season on the last play of the first half. The pick, taken by Will Edgington, came just after Wilkinson hit Adrian Lusk for a 42-yard gain on a go route.
Cookeville scored on its first two drives of the second half as well. Collins’ run pushed the lead to 40-0 before Julian Ensley ended the scoring with a three-yard run with 8:11 to play.
Wilkinson finished the game 5-for-8 for 71 yards. The Pioneers didn’t attempt a pass in the second half. Ladet led all rushers with 12 yards on five carries.
Defensively, senior Tristan Reish led the team with nine stops. Darius Wright had six tackles and added a sack in the first quarter.
Warren County will have a short week to prepare for its next game. The Pioneers will play host to Coffee County Thursday night at Nunley Stadium with action set to start at 7 p.m.