Pioneer faithful making the trip to Evensville Friday night were treated to beautiful scenery on the drive. It was probably the only pretty sight all night.
The Warren County High School football team was walloped 46-3 by Rhea County, dropping the Pioneers to 3-6 this season and 1-3 in District 6-AAA competition. The Eagles improved to 8-0 and clinched the district title with the blowout win.
Starting 30 minutes earlier than normal seemed to show from the outset of Friday’s contest. It seemed like Rhea County started without the Pioneers in the opening minutes.
The Eagles only need 70 seconds to take the lead for good. After recovering an onside kick to start the game, the Eagles needed just two plays to reach the end zone. Zach Daoust started a night of highlights for the home team with a 56-yard touchdown run through the heart of the Pioneer defense.
The quick score seemed to be the spark to get the Pioneers into the game. After receiving the ensuing kickoff, Warren County set off on a drive that would take up the majority of the first quarter.
The Pioneers leaned on the running game early, getting short third-down conversion runs from Bryson Lewis and Rickie King to keep the chains moving. By the time Warren County reached midfield, Christian Wilkinson took to the air.
Wilkinson connected with senior Adrian Lusk on a pair of passes, the second a 25-yard heave down the sideline that Lusk hauled in at the Rhea County 27. Rayce Brewer, starting for injured senior Ethan Fliss, also made his first career catch to keep the Pioneers moving. Brewer’s 18-yard reception set up an eventual field goal by Evan Reynolds.
When Reynold’s 30-yard kick split the uprights, the Pioneers had milked nearly 10 minutes off the clock on their longest scoring drive of the season – an 18-play, 72-yard march.
Momentum would stay with the Pioneers when early in the second quarter Brendon Breedlove dove on a fumble by Jacob York. Rickie King and Mitchell Stembridge sandwiched York on a carry, knocking the ball loose for the sophomore linebacker to scoop in for an easy recovery.
Warren County would go three-and-out on the next possession though, leading to Rhea County’s next score.
Noel Patterson gave his team excellent field position with a 16-yard punt return and the Eagles proceeded to score five plays later. Quarterback Daniel Dotson capped the drive with a three-yard sneak into the endzone.
While trying the extra point, Warren County was called for back-to-back offsides penalties – two of 12 flags the team would earn on the night. Eagle coach Mark Pemberton decided to try for two points with the ball on the Pioneer 1, but senior Chayse Frye stacked up the play in the backfield to deny the Eagles.
It was one of the rare times Warren County kept the home team from scoring.
Rhea County added to its lead late in the second quarter when Dotson hit Daoust with a 45-yard screen pass the star running back took to pay dirt. Leading 20-3, the Eagles missed a chance to add to their advantage when the team missed a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
A muffed punt try by the Pioneers out of the locker room led to another Eagle touchdown. After a three-and-out, Warren County trotted out Evan Reynolds, but the snap went low and Reynolds was dumped behind the line for a 22-yard loss.
Taking over the ball at the Pioneer 12, Rhea County only needed two runs to score. Daoust went in from six yards out to push his team’s lead to 27-3. For the contest, Daoust finished with 177 yards rushing, 45 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
Warren County mounted an attack on the next possession, ultimately getting into a goal-to-go situation after a personal foul helped the Pioneers convert on a fourth down.
Warren County faced another fourth down from the Eagle 5 and coach Scott Smith called a time-out to draw up a trick play.
The Pioneers gave the ball to Malik Ladet on a reverse and leaked Wilkinson out of the backfield as a receiver, but the Eagles snuffed out the play and knocked the pass down in the endzone.
Four plays later, Cody Bice broke free on a 70-yard touchdown run to put his team ahead by 30.
The mercy rule came into play when York scored on a 40-yard touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter. Rhea County wrapped up the scoring with Mason Stephenson’s 11-yard touchdown late in the game.
Warren County will have a week to rest before wrapping up its season on Halloween. The Pioneers will play their final home game Friday, Oct. 31 against Cumberland County. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.