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Pioneer playoff hopes squashed
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There will be no November football in Warren County.
Any plans of the playoffs can be put on hold for another year as the Warren County High School football team lost 35-6 Friday night to the White County Warriors in a battle to decide the No. 2 seed in District 6-AAA.
Warren County (2-6) knew heading to Sparta that a postseason berth was on the line. With a win, the Pioneers would’ve punched their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but instead the Warriors will be making the trip this season.
White County (3-5) won for the sixth straight time in the month of October, a streak dating back to last season, as five different Warriors scored on the ground to hand the Pioneers a crushing loss.
The Warrior ground game was a cause for concern going into the contest as tailback Blake Lynn had wreaked havoc on opponents this season and gained over 100 yards in a win over the Pioneers a season ago at Nunley Stadium.
In an all-out attempt to stop Lynn, Warren County seemed to lose Kayne Tollison on several occasions and the senior running back made the Pioneers pay.
Tollison racked up 152 yards on the ground, leading a White County rushing attack that topped 250 yards Friday night.
Tollison got off to a hot start. After the Warriors forced a punt by the Pioneers on the game’s opening drive, Tollison carried five times on a nine-play, 67-yard drive that consumed most of the first quarter.
Tollison hit paydirt from four yards out with 5:03 to play in the first period, but White County failed on a 2-point conversion as the home team led 6-0.
Warren County, which started junior Hunter Mullican at quarterback for the first time since the season opener against DeKalb County, failed to get a first down on the ensuing drive and freshman Evan Reynolds was forced to punt a second time.
Tollison went right back to work when the Warriors took possession. A 56-yard sprint by the senior set up a five-yard scoring scamper by Perry Clayton as White County scored for the second time in the opening quarter. A successful 2-point try on a Tollison run made it 14-0 with 48 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Two sacks and a penalty forced Reynolds to punt near his own endzone on the next Pioneer drive and a short kick gave White County the ball at the Pioneer 39.
The Warren County defense stood tall, forcing a 4th-and-18, but White County made a big play to set up another score. Quarterback Jake Young lofted a long pass down the left boundary where Tommy Odom was able to make a big catch inside the Pioneer 5.
Two plays later, Cole Bohannon scored on a one-yard sneak and Luke Cantrell added the PAT to make it 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
A promising Pioneer drive on the next series, which saw Mullican move the team to midfield with completions to D’Andre League and Kendall Rutledge, was thwarted by an interception which set up the next Warrior score.
River Boruff made it 28-0 going into halftime when he received an inside handoff from Young and outran the Pioneer defense for a 58-yard score.
The second half started with a big defensive play by the Pioneers.
On the first play from scrimmage, Ethan Turner busted through the line and stripped Young before he could get rid of the ball. Logan Wanamaker dove on the fumble, giving Warren County prime field position.
The offense stalled in the red zone though as Cameron Lusk was stopped on two carries and Mullican missed the mark on third down. Coach Tommy Johnson elected to try a field goal, but Johnny Smith’s 36-yard try didn’t get over the linemen as it hit a Pioneer player’s back.
Warren County got the ball right back after a Warrior punt, but another scoring shot for the Pioneers was halted.
A 34-yard run by League and four completions by Mullican moved the Pioneers down to the White County 10, but on 3rd-and-goal Mullican was intercepted by Clayton while trying to hit Rutledge in the endzone.
Clayton returned the pick 31 yards, which set up the Warriors final score.
Lynn capped a seven-play, 68-yard drive by diving in from three yards out on the second play of the fourth quarter. An extra point by Cantrell made it 35-0, enacting the mercy rule.
Warren County got on the scoreboard on the next drive as Mullican moved the Pioneers down the field through the air. The junior quarterback connected with League for 52 yards, then hit Rutledge with a 15-yard touchdown toss to make it 35-6. A two-point conversion try was unsuccessful as Drew Davidson couldn’t connect with Tristan Reish.
The Pioneers had one last chance to score on the final play of the game, but a double-pass play that saw Lee Carden catch a lateral and heave the ball down the field was intercepted by White County.
The Warriors stormed the field in celebration, while the Pioneers lingered on the sidelines while trying to shake off the devastating loss.
Warren County will wrap up its season with two games at Nunley Stadium. The Pioneers will play host to the Tullahoma Wildcats this Friday, then the Soddy Daisy Trojans will come to town Oct. 26 for senior night.