Tyler Howard may want to dress as Freddy Krueger for Halloween because he’ll be haunting the Warren County High School football team’s dreams for a while.
Howard rushed for 345 yards and five touchdowns to help the Cumberland County Jets end a six-year losing streak to the Pioneers with a 34-16 win Friday night in Crossville.
Warren County, now 0-3, debuted its new road jerseys, but it was a new-look offense that seemed to draw the most attention. Coach Tommy Johnson and his staff abandoned the spread offense out of the shotgun and elected to put sophomore Hunter Mullican under center most of the game.
The Pioneers attacked the Jets defense with a veer look, leaving sophomore Cameron Lusk as the lone tailback while motioning in speedsters D’Andre League and Austin Fisk for sweeps.
The offense seemed to cure the woes as Warren County piled up 411 yards of offense against the Jets compared to 332 yards in the first two weeks.
Though the offense seemed to click for the first time this season, the Pioneers found themselves in catch-up mode quickly for the second time in as many weeks.
Last week, it was a fumble on the opening kickoff which led to Warren County trailing 23 seconds into the Shelbyville game.
This week, Hunter Mullican threw an interception on the third play from scrimmage and Howard answered back with his first score from 38 yards out. With only 1:15 off the clock, the Pioneers were already down 7-0.
The second Pioneer drive showed some promise, but stalled after a holding penalty negated a first down and forced Warren County into third-and-long. Penalties would become a trend as the Pioneers drew 17 flags for a total of 140 yards.
After Ricardo Duenas punted the Jets inside their own 20, Cumberland County called on its favorite weapon. On his second touch, Howard raced 82 yards to put the Jets up 14-0 with 7:49 to play in the first quarter.
The Pioneers’ ensuing drive ended on a fumble by Austin Fisk, giving the Jets prime field position. Warren County’s defense held when Cumberland County advanced to the Pioneer 32 as Zack Stanley broke through the line on third-and-one and sacked the Jets quarterback.
Stanley grabbed Steven Hill’s facemask on the play though, giving the Jets a new set of downs.
Howard capitalized two plays later, scoring on a 27-yard run to make it 21-0 with 2:32 left in the first quarter.
After another fumble, this time on an exchange between Mullican and Lusk, the Jets took over in Warren County territory. A sack by Tristan Reish on third down forced a punt and the Jets made their first mistake to let the Pioneers back in the game.
The snap to the Jets punter sailed high and the Pioneers tracked Jarrod Lee down for a 10-yard loss. With Warren County getting the ball on the Jets 30, it took only three plays before League scored his first varsity touchdown on a nine-yard run.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball was fumbled around and the Jets were forced to start in the shadows of their own goal post. Beginning the drive at their own 2, the Jets ran two plays before a shotgun snap flew over Hill’s head and was recovered by Howard in the endzone for a safety to make it 21-9.
After Tyler Worthington’s 30-yard return on the safety punt, the Pioneers began their drive on the Jets 41. A holding call and sack bogged down the drive, which ended on a bad snap to punter Ricardo Duenas, forcing the senior to try to run for a first down on fourth-and-29. Duenas lost three yards, giving the ball back to the Jets at the Warren County 37.
The Pioneers defense stood tall once again though. On the first play, the Jets took a shot over the middle. Logan Walker, filling in at safety for the injured Lee Carden, leapt in the air and intercepted the pass and brought it back 15 yards.
The momentum was short-lived however, as the Pioneers couldn’t turn the Jets miscue into points. When the Jets got the ball back on their 26, it took Howard two plays before he was back in the endzone. Howard’s fourth TD, this time from 62 yards out, gave the Jets a 27-6 lead. Worthington blocked the extra-point try.
Warren County didn’t go to halftime reeling though. The Pioneers launched a 12-play, 91-yard touchdown drive to end the half. League had runs of 15, 16 and 11 yards during the drive and also had a 19-yard catch to set up Fisk’s eight-yard touchdown with 10.8 seconds remaining.
After halftime though, the Pioneers let their chance to come back slip away on a third-quarter drive. Warren County stopped the Jets initial possession and got the ball at its own 8.
The Pioneers marched 17 plays, but it was a back-and-forth march. During the drive, Warren County racked up 35 yards worth of penalties. The biggest play of the drive was Fisk’s 32-yard, over-the-shoulder catch on a third-and-six to put the Pioneers at the Jets 12. A holding call and illegal procedure penalty forced a fourth-and-22 situation and Mullican’s pass to Mitchell Ashford in the corner of the endzone was off by a hair.
The Jets would end the Pioneers comeback attempts when Howard iced the game with a 62-yard touchdown with 7:10 to play.
The lone bright spot at the end was freshman Bryson Lewis getting his first significant action as a varsity player. Lewis had back-to-back carries of 35 and 22 yards to end the game.
The loss to the Jets was the first District 6-AAA loss of the season for Warren County. The Pioneers return to action this week with a game against the Smith County Owls. This Friday is also homecoming for Warren County. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.