The Warren County Pioneers ruined homecoming for their border rivals and along the way took a district win, dropping White County 20-14.
The Pioneers improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the district as they put last week’s heartbreaking overtime home loss to Coffee County behind them. They were helped along the way by four Warrior turnovers as the home-standing squad turned the ball over on the second play of the game when quarterback Trenton Hodges threw a fly route that only Warren County’s Adrian Lusk was running. He swiped the pass in stride and set the Pioneers up for their first drive.
The Pioneers took no time driving down the field with a 65-yard, eight-play drive that culminated with a Christian Wilkinson 22-yard scamper to put the visitors up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
It appeared the Pioneers would hold the Sparta squad to a three-and-out on the next possession but a running into the kicker call on the punt attempt gave the Warriors new life. They would, however, squander their extra possession when they fumbled the ball back to the Pioneers six plays later. Hunter Hawkins claimed the fumble for the Pioneers.
The Pioneers would again make White County pay for their recklessness with the ball as Christian Wilkinson hit Adrian Lusk for a 44-yard touchdown strike five plays later as Warren County went for it on a fourth-and-short situation. A missed extra point left the score at 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Wilkinson to Lusk was a recurring theme all night as the pair connected eight times for 82 yards. The tandem accounted for the lion’s share of Wilkinson’s 137 yards passing as he went 14 for 20 on the night with no picks. The signal caller added 44 yards rushing.
The Warriors began the second quarter by putting a solid drive together after the kickoff landed out of bounds and let Sparta set up shop on the 40-yard-line. Despite not showing any big-strike ability, the Sparta squad demonstrated the ability to bull its way down the middle of the field in long, bruising drives.
It took White County eight plays to drive the 60 yards to pay dirt. A 28-yard connection from Trenton Hodges to tight end Allen Newport drew the Warrior to within six at the 10:27 mark of the second.
Taking a page out of their host’s book, the Pioneers set in for a long, deliberate drive on their next possession as they worked the ball down field. A 39-yard burst by tailback Tristan Reish put the Pioneers in scoring position.
Bryson Lewis did the honors with a two-yard burst into the end zone making the score 20-7. He led all Pioneer rushers, carrying the ball 20 times for 108 yards. The Pioneers had 285 yards rushing on the night, spread out between five running backs. Reish had the best average, carrying the ball four times for 45 yards, while Rickie King wasn’t far behind, carrying the ball seven times for 67 yards.
The damage could have been much worse for Sparta before halftime as the Pioneers had mounted a long drive that started from their own 10 after they held White County to a three-and-out. The Pioneers were invading into Sparta territory when a fumble derailed the drive and gave White County one last gasp before the half.
While mounting a formidable drive, the Sparta squad was not able to capitalize before halftime as Warren County’s Malik Ladet swiped an errant Hodges pass just before intermission.
The third quarter saw things get tight for the Pioneers as they started the half with a three-and-out and then saw the Warriors eat up most of the third quarter with a 15-play, 75-yard drive as Sparta running backs Chris Richmond and Jake Shockey ground the ball for short bursts, the longest of which was eight yards. The methodical drive was capped with a Seth Davis dive making the score 20-14 with 3:32 left in the third. Richmond led his team in rushing, carrying the ball 13 times for 50 yards.
The fourth quarter saw the Pioneer defense stand strong. Unlike the first three quarters when White County had been able to move the ball, derailed only by turnovers, the fourth frame saw Warren County stiffen on defense holding Sparta to a pair of three-and-outs. Meanwhile the Pioneers, while not able to find the end zone, were able to burn the clock with a pair of time-consuming drives.
White County’s last chance came with only 1:40 left. Getting the ball at their own 25, the Warriors were able to encroach on midfield before Ezra Dixon fell on a Randin Seibers fumble to effectively end the game.
“This is what the new Pioneers are about,” Pioneer coach Scott Smith told his players as they celebrated a midfield before running to the visitor sideline and saluting the Warren County Band.
The Pioneers play the Tullahoma Wildcats at Nunley Stadium this Friday at 7 p.m. in non-district action.