Getting back to play in District 6-AAA has to be exciting for the Warren County High School football team, but the thought of suiting up for a home district game has the Cookeville Cavaliers psyched as well.
The Pioneers and Cavaliers have each had their share of struggles this season, posting identical 1-3 marks thus far, but both had their best games when a district rival lined up on the opposite sideline.
Warren County snapped a 15-game losing streak 13 days ago with a 37-13 victory over Cumberland County, while the Cavaliers picked up their only win the following night by beating White County 21-14.
Those victories in Week 2 of the high school season mean first place in District 6-AAA will be at stake in Cookeville Friday night.
Each team will be trying to erase the memories of ugly losses with a week of practice. Warren County lost 47-7 to Smith County last week on the road. Cookeville was blown out by Beech 56-0 as the Cavaliers hit the road for the third time in four weeks.
Pioneer coach Tommy Johnson realizes the implications of this week’s game, which could vault Warren County into the playoff picture for the first time since 2008.
“The district games are the most important on our schedule,” said Johnson. “These are the games you expect to win and we are working hard in practice trying to prepare for a good opponent.”
Cookeville and Warren County currently own the only two wins by teams in District 6-AAA. White County, which lost returning all-district quarterback Devin Davidson to a season-ending leg injury two weeks ago, and Cumberland County have begun the season 0-4, while Coffee County sits at 0-3.
The struggles outside of district play have been apparent, even for a Cavalier team which made noise last season with an opening round upset of Bradley Central in the playoffs, but it won’t stop Cookeville from trying to extend its winning streak over the Pioneers.
The Cavaliers have won 17 of the last 18 games in the series, including the last three since Warren County won 20-14 in 2008.
This year’s Cookeville team doesn’t resemble the dominating ones of years past under coach Jerry Joslin, who left prior to this year to coach John Paul II after 14 years with the Cavaliers.
Under new head coach Scott Cook, the Cavaliers started the season with losses to Brentwood and Tullahoma on the road before beating the Warriors at home. Last week’s 56-point loss to No. 6 ranked Beech will give Cookeville added motivation coming into this week’s game.
Coach Johnson knows the Cavaliers are much better than their record and last week’s score indicates. The third-year head coach for the Pioneers expects a good game Friday.
“Watching the film, they have some good guys and play well,” said Johnson. “Much like us, they’ve allowed some big plays on defense. We’ll have to bring our best against them.”
With Lee Carden at quarterback, the Pioneers are averaging 321 yards of offense a game, most coming on the ground as the Pioneers have piled up 619 yards the last three games.
Cameron Lusk has been a big part of the Pioneer rushing attack as the junior tailback has rushed for 234 yards over the last two weeks. Coach Johnson praised his big back working hard in practice to improve his running style and the result has been Lusk plowing over opponents the last two weeks.
The Pioneers will hit the practice field again this afternoon for more work before Friday’s kickoff, which is set for 7 p.m.