On homecoming night in Cookeville, the Pioneers made sure the Cavaliers didn’t look too pretty.
Warren County forced three fumbles, put a running back over 100 yards, and delivered a fierce sack in what was a physical matchup.
In the end, Cookeville had too much horsepower in pulling away from Warren County for a 42-3 victory.
“Our boys fought hard,” said Warren County coach Tom Moore, whose team drops to 1-2.
Speedy tailback Eric Haywood was an offensive highlight reel for the Pioneers. Haywood ripped off a 55-yard run on his way to 112 yards on the ground. He also landed a jarring hit while playing defense.
“Eric has been a big-play guy in each of our three games and he was good again tonight against the best defense we’ve faced so far,” said Moore.
Down 28-3 at the half, Warren County decided it was time for some airmail in the second half.
Sophomore QB Clay Thompson threw the ball around the field and completed 5 of his 10 passes after intermission. Thompson was 0 for 5 in the first half.
“We probably should have opened it up earlier,” said Moore.
The Cookeville offense gained its momentum from QB Blaine Espinosa and RB Jaedan McAllister. They were able to bulldoze the Pioneers.
The Cavs (2-1) scored on their first offensive play as McAllister broke a tackle at the line and scampered 66 yards for a TD.
Jacobs Stamps scored the TD on Cookeville’s second possession, capping a nine-play drive with a 3-yard dart up the middle to find the endzone, 14-0.
Warren County answered with its lone scoring drive, marching 71 yards on 12 plays. Haywood had the Pioneer offensive play of the night when he hit a hole on the right side, bounced it to the sideline, and raced downfield for a 55-yard gain.
It appeared Haywood might go the distance, but a defender with the angle was able to drag him down from behind at the 26-yard line. A roughing the passer penalty allowed the Pioneers to advance to the 11, their deepest penetration of the game, and kicker Tony Curtis booted in the only Warren County points from 28 yards out.
It was 14-3 with 10:35 left in the second quarter.
Espinosa would take over from there, leading the Cavs with poise and an arm like slingshot. Espinosa showed he could make all the throws as he was able to stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball with accuracy. Two of his three incompletions were dropped passes.
“He’s a big kid with a strong arm,” said Cookeville coach Jimmy Maynard of his QB. “A really underrated part of his game is his ability to run.”
Espinosa was especially effective on quarterback draws where he would drop to pass and appear ready to throw before pulling the ball down and barreling upfield. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Espinosa is as big as most Warren County players and he didn’t shy away from contact.
The Pioneer defense created some big plays and recovered all three of Cookeville’s fumbles. The Cavs fumbled on their first two possessions of the second half.
Coach Moore said the Pioneers must show better preparation during the week if they hope to have better results on Friday night.
“We really didn’t have a good week of practice,” said Moore. “We’re starting eight or nine sophomores and they have to learn that they need to practice well if they’re going to play well. It’s hard to simulate going against an offense and defense as good as Cookeville’s if you don’t have a good week of practice. That’s an area where we need to improve.”
Warren County will turn its attention to homecoming week and a game against Shelbyville this Friday night at Nunley Stadium. The homecoming parade will begin at 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon at Tire Mart and travel the length of Main Street.
Homecoming festivities will include the crowning of a king and queen during halftime. After three games on the road, it will be Warren County’s first home game this year.