Warren County went into the game against DeKalb County with a depleted roster with the best of intentions, and for a half, the Pioneers were holding their own. Down only 7-0 at halftime was a reason for optimism.
Mistakes hurt the Pioneers in the third quarter, as DeKalb County put 14 more points on the board for a 21-0 lead. One more score by DeKalb County in the fourth quarter gave the Tigers a convincing 28-0 victory.
Having 14 positive COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks was simply too much for the Pioneers to overcome. Players who were playing on the junior varsity team only a week or two ago were starting on the varsity for the Pioneers. The score may have been lopsided, but the young players who stepped up must be commended for having the courage to play against older, more experienced players.
DeKalb County took control in the second half. The Tigers went into their wildcat offense formation after receiving the kickoff. On their first offensive series of the second half, senior Isaac Knowles ran the wildcat offense from behind center and gained 43 yards on three carries that quickly put the Tigers on the Pioneer 22-yard line to start the third quarter.
DeKalb County then switched back to its regular offense and sophomore quarterback Briz Trapp handed the ball off to junior Tiger running back Colby Barnes who ran for a 22-yard touchdown to put DeKalb County up 14-0.
Warren County showed some life in its next possession when Braylon Grayson made an exciting run, breaking several tackles for 43 yards. The Pioneers advanced to DeKalb County’s 17-yard line, poised to make their first score of the night when a mishandled snap turned the ball over to DeKalb County.
The Tigers were driving into Pioneer territory on the ensuing drive when Nate Elrod recovered a fumble caused by a bad DeKalb County snap.
Unfortunately, three plays later on third and 14, DeKalb County’s Isaac Knowles intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, giving DeKalb County a commanding 21-0 lead with less than two minutes to go in the third.
DeKalb County scored its last touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 58-yard drive that exclusively featured Colby Barnes running the ball.
The short story of the second half is DeKalb County went to a very basic offense running the ball, attempting only one pass, and unfortunately, Warren County was not able to contain them. The strength of DeKalb County was clearly evident in the second half.
BRIGHT SPOTS FOR
Braylon Grayson continues to make breakaway runs in games. Grayson is excellent at breaking tackles and open field running. He has a run or two in games of over 40 yards that demonstrate his exceptional athletic ability.
Nate Elrod continues to play gutsy defense. Elrod made sure tackles of DeKalb County’s two offensive threats, Barnes and Knowles, who punished the Pioneer defense for most of the second half. Elrod is a fearless tackler who prevents a lot of big plays from happening with his nose for the ball and sure tackling.
Jaythan Pleasant has missed some playing time recently with an injury, but he showed moments of his elusive and creative running style a few times against DeKalb County (5-2). Another bright spot Friday night was backup QB Alex van Vuuren who relieved Nate Elrod late in the fourth quarter and ran for 27 yards.
HEAD COACH COMMENTS
DeKalb County head coach Steve Trapp discussed how his team dominated the second half. Trapp said, “It is about players, not plays. 5 (Isaac Knowles) gave us a spark. 24 (Colby Barnes) had a great night as well. It all starts up front. The penalties on first down, the bad snaps get you behind the chains. It got us out of what we wanted to do in the first half. In the first drive of the second half, that is what we did (wildcat). We just cleaned things up, and let the guys play football. We knew they (Warren County) lost a lot of guys up front.”
Pioneer head coach Matt Turner said, “It was a good game at half. They saw that we were inexperienced. Coach Trapp knew that we could not tackle them. We are not strong enough. We got to make strength a priority, and that is not something you can change overnight. As a school system, and as a team, we have to take the weight room more seriously 365 days a year.”
Turner continued, “Hopefully next week guys will trickle back in. We will get them more acclimated, and I think that will make a big difference.”
REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTARY
The recent losses have revealed something that head coach Matt Turner has been emphasizing since the loss to Siegel … the Pioneer football team needs to get stronger. Most 6A football teams in the state have a period during the school day for football players to be in the weight room, and Warren County does not have that type of period for high school athletes.
The Pioneers (1-4) do not have anyone on the team who can bench press over 250 pounds. That is a major reason the team is being consistently beaten up front on the line this season.
The Pioneers should tip their hat to DeKalb County for winning this game. Warren County has a slim 9-8 lead in the series. DeKalb County will have bragging rights for one more year. The silver lining is that playing young players will hopefully help the Pioneers next year when the season kicks off at DeKalb County.
And hopefully the Pioneers are recommitting themselves to the weight room for the offseason.