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Pioneers narrowly defeat FCMS Gators
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It wasn’t the dominating win of a week ago for the Warren County Middle School football team, but the Pioneers left Franklin County Tuesday night with their second victory.
Christian Wilkinson’s four-yard score on a boot leg on fourth-and-goal to begin the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as the Pioneers defeated the Gators 12-6.
Coach Greg Cotten saw his team sweat out a win after Franklin North controlled the clock with onside kicks in the first half. The Pioneers only touched the ball twice in the first 16 minutes.
Ultimately, it was a great defensive effort and timely plays by the offense which carried the Pioneers to victory.
“It was a tough game. We kept putting ourselves in bad positions early,” said Cotten. “Defensively we played exceptional. I was proud to see the defense stand up and not break even after we put them in a corner several times.”
The Gators began the game with an onside kick, recovering at the Warren County 45. Franklin North drove the ball down to the Pioneer 6, but Tyler Mills stepped up with a big interception in the endzone to keep the game scoreless.
Warren County didn’t muster any offense on its first three plays, setting up a punt for Evan Reynolds. The snap went over Reynolds’ head however and was recovered by Franklin North at the Warren County 10.
The Pioneers forced a fourth down, but a pass interference call gave the Gators a new set of downs at the Warren County 2. Two plays later, Franklin North took a 6-0 lead on a plunge up the middle.
Franklin North missed the PAT, but was again successful on an onside kick to get the ball back. The Pioneers drove the Gators back though and got the ball on a punt with 73 yards to go for a score.
The Pioneers ground game carried the team down the field, with Rickie King finishing off the touchdown drive with a 22-yard gallop for a score. Coach Cotten called the run “Sportscenter-worthy” as King broke several tackles to tie the game at six.
A missed PAT by the Pioneers sent the game to halftime tied at six. The Pioneers regrouped to begin the second half, with the defense once again coming up with big plays.
Franklin North found some momentum on its opening drive, but stalled near midfield. A fake-punt attempt was sniffed out by Warren County and the Pioneers got the ball in great field position to try to take the lead.
Taking over at their own 45, the Pioneers ran five straight plays to get down to the Franklin North 2 when the third-quarter whistle sounded.
The Pioneers were pushed back on third-and-goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, setting up a big fourth down play call.
Coach Cotten opted to go for the touchdown, sending his offense back on the field. With the Gators keying on King, Wilkinson faked a handoff and went the opposite direction for a four-yard score.
The Pioneers weren’t able to add to the 12-6 lead with a two-point conversion, leaving the defense to protect the lead.
Warren County had some nervous moments in the final minutes when the Gators mounted a big drive, but a fumble recovery with 3:19 remaining looked like the game-clincher for the Pioneers.
A 15-yard loss on the Pioneers ensuing drive though gave the Gators hope. With Warren County operating near its own endzone and needing 24 yards to convert on third down, coach Cotten turned to the passing game.
Wilkinson connected with Evan Reynolds on a 27-yard pass, the Pioneers lone completion, to effectively end the game.
King would eclipse the 100-yard mark with a 10-yard run on another third-down conversion as the Pioneers held on to the ball until the final whistle.
King finished with 110 yards on 21 carries, while Wilkinson added 35 yards on three attempts. Wilkinson was 1-for-2 passing for 27 yards.
Izzy McDonnell led the Pioneers defense with eight tackles. Jordan Bonnor added six stops.
The Pioneers will make the trip back to Franklin County next week when the team takes on Franklin South Middle School. Tuesday’s game begins at 6:30 p.m.