When coach Tommy Johnson left Riverdale High School on Friday night, his biggest concern wasn’t an offense which failed to produce positive yardage, it was the growing number of players who seem destined to be on the sideline watching for a while.
Coach Johnson and the Pioneers cut their scrimmage against Riverdale and Franklin High School short Friday after Warren County had a number of players sustain injuries, ranging from minor to possibly severe.
Coach Johnson made the decision after the Pioneers had played a quarter against both opponents. For Johnson, it was about getting to the start of the regular season as healthy as possible.
“It was a risk I wasn’t willing to take,” said Johnson. “I wanted to get our guys back home and rested because the real season begins in two weeks.”
Senior starting linebacker and center MaCrae Thomsen was the first to go down. Thomsen appeared to hurt his ankle during a pile up while playing center.
Shortly after, freshman Bryson Lewis had to be helped to the sideline when he was hit in the knee on a run.
Senior quarterback Connor Dixon also made a visit to the trainer after he was sacked. Dixon left the field with an ice pack on his right shoulder.
The injuries were the Pioneers main concern following the scrimmages, but during the action Warren County was more worried about its shaky offense and giving up big plays on defense.
The Pioneers day didn’t start out well on offense. On the first play from scrimmage against the Warriors, Cameron Lusk took a hand off and was hit immediately. Lusk fumbled, but the Pioneers recovered.
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Mullican took all the snaps against Riverdale. Mullican was sacked several times and completed just one pass, which went to senior Mitchell Ashford.
After three offensive series, the Pioneers had failed to produce a first down against the Warriors and had totaled negative yardage.
The defense stood up to the Warriors on the first series. Warren County allowed one first down before forcing the Warriors to give the ball over on a 4th-and-long situation.
Riverdale, which enters the season ranked No. 2 in the state, would go on to score on the next two drives. One was a long drive featuring running plays every down, while the other was a one-play drive where the Warriors connected on an 80-yard touchdown pass.
Though the defense had its miscues, coach Johnson was pleased by the fight his team showed during the opening series against the Warriors.
“We played well the first series against both opponents,” said Johnson. “Then we made some mistakes, which is going to happen with a young team.
“We scheduled these tough opponents so our guys know they can go out and compete against the best. Now we know how far we still need to go and how hard we have to work to get to where we want to be.”
Dixon stepped in at quarterback against Franklin High School, but he faced similar issues Mullican had dealt with against Riverdale. With the running game getting stuffed, the Pioneers tried to go to the air to make plays.
The result oftentimes was a sack, as Dixon and Mullican both spent their afternoon scrambling.
Dixon did find time to find Ashford with two passes, one on a screen and the other on a short hitch route. Dixon also connected with Lee Carden for 12 yards.
The Rebels scored on two of their three drives. One was another 80-yard touchdown pass as the Pioneers had a defensive miscommunication. The Pioneers stopped the Rebels on their second drive when Tucker Slatton recovered a fumble.
The trip to Riverdale was a day after the Pioneers had gone to Lincoln County and scrimmaged the Falcons. Coach Johnson was pleased with the effort of his offense in Lincoln County, as he estimated his team ran for over 150 yards.
The Pioneers are scheduled to make a trip to Siegel on Tuesday, but coach Johnson is going to assess the status of his team and make a decision today whether the team will make the trip.
Warren County will open its season in 12 days at home against the DeKalb County Tigers. Kickoff at Nunley Stadium is set for 7 p.m.