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Pioneers face tough test
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The Warren County High School football team hasn’t forgotten the 62-14 thumping at the hands of Tullahoma High School last season. Tonight will be their chance at avenging the loss on the Wildcats’ home field.
Warren County (0-8) will try to pick up its first win tonight when the team travels to Tullahoma to take on the 6-2 Wildcats at 7 p.m.
The Wildcats have been a thorn in the sides of the Pioneers for the past decade. Tullahoma has won nine of the last 10 meetings, with the only Warren County win coming in 2009.
Coach Tommy Johnson knows the challenge his team faces tonight going against a team which has already clinched a playoff berth. For coach Johnson, it will be about getting his team to rise to the challenge.
“It’s not been a challenge trying to keep the team’s spirits up. These guys are ready to play and want to get a win,” said Johnson. “We have to put all three phases of the game together and play for four quarters.
“This season, we’ll have a game where we play well offensively, but struggle defensively, or vice versa. We’ve also had games where we’ll play well one half, but not the other. We have to put it all together.”
Last year, the Pioneers found themselves in a huge hole before the game even reached the second quarter.
Warren County trailed 35-0 after 12 minutes and never recovered. Many of the players who frustrated the Pioneers last season return for the Wildcats.
Tullahoma’s offense is led by senior quarterback Jared Davis. Davis is nearing the 1,000-yard mark for the season and has thrown for four touchdowns. In last year’s game, Davis completed 8-of-11 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
Though the passing attack for the Wildcats has to be respected, it’s the running game which has given opponents fits this season.
Tullahoma averages 199.3 yards per game on the ground behind the one-two punch of Trey Burks and Montrell Berry. Burks missed last year’s game in Nunley Stadium, but Berry starred. Berry scored five touchdowns in the first half, four of which came in the first quarter.
Shoring up the run defense will be paramount if the Pioneers are to slow down the Tullahoma offense. Warren County has given up 274 yards rushing per game and opposing team’s star running backs have feasted on the Pioneer defense this season.
If the Pioneers want to pick up their first win, they may have to win a shoot-out against the Wildcats. In the past four games, Warren County has shown it has the offensive firepower.
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Mullican has stepped up his play and the offense has improved steadily under his leadership.
In the past four games, the Pioneers have averaged 20.3 points per game. In Warren County’s first four games, the team scored 23 points total.
Much of the credit goes to Mullican and the passing game, which has generated big numbers through the air.
Mullican is averaging over 200 yards passing and has thrown a touchdown in each of the last four games.
For the second straight week, Mullican should have a full assortment of weapons. Lee Carden is coming off his best game of the season at wide receiver. The sophomore caught seven passes last week, including a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Juniors Mitchell Ashford, Maurkel Breedlove and Kendall Rutledge should also see plenty of targets in tonight’s game.
The improvement of the passing game has started to open up lanes for the running game. Last week, sophomore Cameron Lusk busted a 47-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and freshman D’Andre League had a 57-yard score in the second half.
The Pioneers will continue to strive for balance in the offense, something coach Johnson believes can be obtained tonight.
“We need stay balanced,” said Johnson. “We had success offensively last week and need to keep it going.”
The Pioneers and Wildcats have three common opponents on their schedules. Warren County lost to Cookeville, Coffee County and Shelbyville by a combined 122-22. Tullahoma is 2-1 against the same opponents, including defeating Shelbyville last week 34-21.