The excitement for the start of the Warren County High School football season was dashed when DeKalb County came into Nunley Stadium and defeated the Pioneers 26-7.
The Tigers scored twice in a span of four minutes right before halftime and held the Pioneers to less than 200 total yards of offense to hand Warren County a season-opening loss for the first time since 2008.
The big crowd that greeted the Pioneers on Friday night was treated to a scoreless first quarter. The Tigers had a chance to score on their first possession, but a fumble in the red zone was recovered by Lee Carden to shift momentum to the home team.
The Pioneers were dealt a blow just a few moments later when senior starting quarterback Connor Dixon was lost for the game. Dixon tried to scramble, but was hit by two DeKalb County defenders. Dixon was removed from the game and didn’t return.
Sophomore Hunter Mullican stepped in, but spent most of the first half watching from the sidelines.
DeKalb County controlled the clock in the second quarter with 11-play, 12-play and nine-play drives.
The last two resulted in touchdowns as the Tigers scored twice in the final four minutes of the first half.
The first score was a three-yard touchdown run by Zach Taylor which capped a 12-play, 77-yard march.
Trailing 7-0, freshman D’Andre League nearly tied the game on the next play. League took the kickoff and dazzled the crowd with a 50-yard return which included several jukes and cuts to avoid Tiger tacklers.
Warren County fizzled with the good field position though. A false start penalty, one of nine on the night for Warren County, and two incompletions for Mullican gave DeKalb County the ball back at its own 38 with less than two minutes to play.
Junior quarterback Lucas Phillips moved the Tigers down the field and hit Will Molander with a 19-yard touchdown pass with :07 left in the half. The PAT was missed, leaving the Tigers with a 13-0 lead going into halftime.
The Pioneers came out of the half with a strong showing that showed the possibility of a comeback.
A failed punt attempt from DeKalb County on its opening possession resulted in a 16-yard loss and gave the Pioneers the ball 19 yards away from the goal line.
Cameron Lusk cashed in three plays later from six yards out and Johnny Smith nailed the PAT to make it 13-7 with 8:42 left in the third quarter.
DeKalb County was quick to thwart the Pioneers rally. The Tigers returned the kickoff past midfield and the next play was a 20-yard run with a personal foul on Warren County tacked on to put the Tigers in the red zone.
Phillips found Taylor with a two-yard touchdown pass two plays later to give the Tigers a 19-7 lead just 47 seconds after the Pioneers scored.
Mullican, who finished 11-23 for 78 yards, drove the Pioneers twice into DeKalb County territory in the fourth quarter, but two interceptions doomed Warren County’s comeback attempt.
Phillips and Taylor hooked up one last time with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 19-point win and ending the Pioneers two-game winning streak in the series.
Lusk finished with 21 carries for 78 yards to lead Warren County’s offense. Ricardo Duenas added two carries, both on fake punts, for 26 yards. Calvin Hammond finished with three carries for 15 yards.
Carden and Eric Wood led the Pioneers with four catches each. Jacob Newby, Maurkel Breedlove, Mitchell Ashford and Lusk had one catch each.
Carden was the Pioneers leading tackler with eight and had a fumble recovery. MaCrae Thomsen and Aaron McKinley had one sack each.
The Pioneers will be back at home next week with a game against Shelbyville. Warren County will play host to the Golden Eagles at Nunley Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.