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Pioneers thump Tullahoma
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Coach Greg Cotten knew if Tullahoma Middle School played the same defense against the Pioneers he’d seen on film, Warren County could make big plays.
But even coach Cotten had to be shocked when the Pioneers scored 46 points in the first half on their way to destroying Tullahoma 46-14 Tuesday night at Nunley Stadium.
Christian Wilkinson threw three first-half passes and each went for touchdowns. Wilkinson hit Rickie King for 53-yard and 38-yard scores and also hooked up with Darius Wright on a 43-yard touchdown pass.
Wilkinson added a two-point conversion run and pass to Ryan Nokes as the Pioneers’ offense had a field day against a hapless Tullahoma defense.
The offensive explosion was a glimpse into what coach Cotten thought his team could do all along.
“I think in the first half we finally played up to our potential and it reflected on the scoreboard,” said Cotten. “We didn’t make very many mistakes.”
The Pioneers began the game with the ball and it wasn’t long before Warren County reached the endzone. The Pioneers picked up two first downs, but a penalty forced a third-and-long near midfield.
Coach Cotten dialed up the deep ball and Wilkinson hit King in stride down the sideline on a wheel route for a 53-yard touchdown.
The Pioneers went for two after the score and Wilkinson faked a hand-off and tried to bootleg to the right side. Tullahoma swarmed Wilkinson, but the Pioneer quarterback was able to reverse field and scramble back to the left to give his team an 8-0 lead.
Tullahoma answered back quickly, giving coach Cotten the thought it could be a shoot-out. The Wildcats faked a punt on their own 38 and the pass play gained over 50 yards to put Tullahoma inside the Pioneer 10.
Two plays later the Wildcats scored on a two-yard plunge and added a two-point conversion to tie the game at eight.
It would prove to be the closest Tullahoma would get on Tuesday night. The Pioneers rolled off 36 straight points before halftime to turn the Central Tennessee Conference game into a blowout.
King scored the Pioneers’ next touchdown, racing 63 yards down the Tullahoma sideline on the Warren County’s next possession. The two-point conversion failed, leaving it at 14-8.
Warren County’s defense then held Tullahoma to a three-and-out, forcing another punt attempt. This time the Wildcats punted and Darius Wright was ready. Wright fielded the punt at his own 40 and turned upfield. Wright made a move toward the Pioneer sideline where it looked like he was trapped by two Tullahoma defenders.
Wright stopped on a dime, avoiding two tacklers, then broke back to the middle of the field where he scored to make it a 12-point game. King added the two-point conversion as Warren County led after the first quarter 22-8.
On the Pioneers next possession, Wilkinson and King were able to connect on the wheel route once again. Wilkinson loaded up at the Tullahoma 38 and lofted a pass to King as the running back had gotten behind the defense.
King caught the pass at the 5 and walked into the endzone for his third touchdown of the first half. King scored another two-point conversion to make it 30-8.
The Pioneers’ offense didn’t even get back on the field to grow the lead to 30. With Tullahoma trying its passing game to find a spark, the Pioneers defense capitalized on a mistake.
The Tullahoma quarterback tried to throw an out route, but Drew Castereno jumped the route and returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. King scored his third two-point conversion to make it 38-8.
Warren County got one last chance before halftime to get the ball in the endzone. The Pioneers took over on offense near midfield and Wilkinson found a different target on his third throw, but it ended in the same result.
Wilkinson found Wright behind the Tullahoma defense for a 43-yard bomb for his third touchdown. Nokes made a diving catch on the two-point conversion as Warren County went into halftime leading 46-8.
The clock ran continuously in the second half due to mercy rules and the Pioneers had the ball on offense only one time. Tullahoma took advantage of playing against the Pioneer back-ups late in the game as Warren County gave up a long touchdown pass for the final score.
Wilkinson finished the game 3-of-4 for 134 yards and three touchdowns. King topped the 100-yard mark on the ground and added 91 yards through the air as he totaled 24 points on his own.
The Pioneers will have little time to celebrate their big win as coach Cotten has already turned his focus to Coffee County.
Coach Cotten knows the importance on next Tuesday’s road game in Manchester.
“We’re treating the game against Coffee County like a championship game,” said Cotten.
Next week’s game will be a noon kickoff as students from each school will get a chance to watch the day game.