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Missed tackles a problem for WCHS
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There was a common theme in last Friday’s game when Cumberland County had the ball. The Jets quarterback would take the snap and quickly hand-off to Tyler Howard.
The Pioneers would race to Howard, oftentimes getting a hand on the Jets running back in the backfield, but Howard would slip away. When Howard got to the second level, the chances of Warren County stopping him were slim to none.
The Pioneers’ poor tackling against the Jets led to Howard rushing for 345 yards and five touchdowns in a 34-16 win for Cumberland County.
Coach Tommy Johnson couldn’t believe the amount of missed tackles following Friday’s game. After a long weekend to review the film, Johnson is still left wondering how Warren County let Howard slip away so many times.
“Our guys are scared to make plays,” said Johnson. “We would have three guys around (Howard), but they’d wait for the other guy to make the play.”
The Pioneers defense has endured its share of miscues this season, allowing their opponents to rack up an average of 324.3 yards of offense. Most of the damage has been done on the ground, where the Pioneers have given up over 200 rushing yards in each of the past two games.
One problem the defense has faced is health. Before the season, the Pioneers lost starting defensive tackle Justin Savage to a knee injury. Savage, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, was supposed to be Warren County’s run stuffer. In his absence, sophomore Ethan Turner and senior Ricardo Duenas have had to fill in.
The linebacker situation in coach Johnson’s 4-2-5 scheme hasn’t been any better. In the Pioneers first game, senior MaCrae Thomsen played limited snaps because of an ankle injury. Fellow senior Calvin Hammond has played only one quarter of the past two games, leaving Warren County thin at the position.
The emergence of freshman Tristan Reish has helped ease the pain of not having two senior captains at linebacker, but the Pioneers still are short-handed.
Perhaps the injury most attributing to Howard’s big game last week was the absence of starting safety Lee Carden. Carden hurt his calf in practice last week and was held out from action.
In his spot, senior Logan Walker showed an eye for the ball as he got the Pioneers’ first interception of the season, but it was Carden’s loss in run support that was glaring. Carden was the Pioneers’ leading tackler through two weeks with 14.
Coach Johnson knows the injuries and lack of a consistent starting unit have played a part in the Pioneers’ defensive struggles, but the injuries can’t stop his team from trying to get stops.
“We’ve got to keep coaching the young guys up so when we lose a guy like Calvin or Lee, there’s another guy ready to step in,” said Johnson.
Carden and Hammond could each return this week, which could be a big factor in the outcome of the Pioneers’ homecoming game against the Smith County Owls.
This week’s kickoff at Nunley Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. Smith County enters the game 3-0, while Warren County is 0-3.