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Pioneers face tough task in Sparta

For the second week in a row, the Warren County High School football team is tasked with stopping an explosive offense on the road.

Coming off a 35-34 setback last week in Smithville, the Pioneers travel to Sparta this Friday night for a matchup against a potent White County team.

White County dismantled Livingston Academy in its opener, winning 48-0, and it could have been much worse.

“That game was pretty much over at the half,” said Warren County coach Matt Turner, pointing out White County was up 34-0 at the break and coasted in the second half.

Warren County is familiar with Mr. Football talk after C.J. Taylor won that award two years ago. The Warriors have their own version of a player they are touting for Mr. Football in running back Malaki Dowell. 

“He ran for 4 touchdowns on opening week and no telling how many he could have scored if they left him in,” said Turner. “He’s fast and quick and an all-around great athlete. He’s a C.J. Taylor-type kid, just an all-around great competitor. They will line him up at quarterback and spread him out at wide receiver. He’s a hard guy to tackle.”

The Pioneers lost by 1 point on opening night, but there were several positives to take from the game against DeKalb County. Warren County’s misdirection offense was successful in scoring 5 TDs on the ground and featured two running plays of over 50 yards, one by QB Nate Elrod and the other by wingback Jaythan Pleasant.

The game also revealed some Pioneer weaknesses.

“There’s no doubt we lost that game on special teams,” said Turner.

The Pioneers surrendered two TDs on kick returns and also had a snap go out of the end zone for a safety while Warren County was attempting to punt.

Turner said the kick return TDs were the result of some younger players not staying in their lanes or being more concerned with the blockers instead of tackling the guy with the football. With White County using Malaki Dowell to return kicks, Turner is very open about his strategy this week.

“We’re not going to kick to him. I can tell you that,” he said.

Tripp Pinion is the White County QB and he serves as a nice complement to Dowell at RB.

“They are really a two-headed monster because their quarterback is very efficient with his legs,” said Turner. “They have three or four playmakers and they are very good at finding ways to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers.”

Turner says there will be a couple changes to the Pioneer offense to move players into positions that better suit their skills. Turner said no one likes to lose, but he thinks the Pioneers will learn from it.

“The one thing it does is I think it allows us to have more of a true evaluation of ourselves where players understand what they did wrong and own up to it,” said Turner. “The good thing is a lot of our mistakes are correctible.”