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WCHS earns first region win since 2016
CJ Taylor went flying over a pile to score the winning points in Friday's 36-35 victory. The Pioneers took the lead for good on Taylor's two-point conversion with 1:34 left to play.

There was no doubt in Matt Turner’s mind late against Rockvale. When the Pioneers had a chance to win, he was going for it.

CJ Taylor dove over the top on a two-point conversion with 1:34 to play to lift Warren County to a 36-35 victory over the Rockvale Rockets, the first Region 6-3A victory for the squad in four years.

Trailing 35-28 in the waning minutes, Jay Rozier powered through from three yards out to get the Pioneers within one. Faced with a decision to try for the tie or go for the win, Turner put his confidence in his team as they pleaded for two points.

“The guys were coming over saying, ‘Coach lets go for it. Let’s get it,’” said coach Turner, who has won back-to-back games at home in his first season as Pioneer coach. “They had so much passion, desire and belief in themselves, I was going to give them that opportunity.”

Just as Turner never second-guessed going for the win, he also knew exactly what play he wanted to use to try to gain three yards. The Pioneers put Taylor, usually the team’s quarterback, at tailback and fed him the rock.

With a host of blockers leading the way, Taylor leapt from the Rocket 4 and landed in the endzone for the winning points.

“When we installed this offense, we put (that package) in. It’s Tink (CJ), our best lineman, our best back and our best blockers on the field. It’s jimmies and joes. There was no way they were stopping us on that play,” said Turner.

Keeping it on the ground was the logical decision on a night where the Pioneers piled up 339 yards rushing. Taylor led the way with 147 yards and two touchdowns, while Lacedrick Cox added 92 yards on four carries, including scoring runs of 33 and 27 yards.

The Pioneer offensive line was in the front of the line when Turner called timeout before the two-point try requesting a chance to pave the way one more time.

“We did it all night long, so I figured we could do it again,” said Douglas Wells, who started at center for the first time this season. “We bowed our neck and got it done.”

Warren County (2-1) had to fight from a 20-7 deficit in the second quarter to earn its first region victory since beating Coffee County 13-7 in 2016. The Pioneers were able to score with 2:02 left in the first half, getting a 10-yard touchdown run from Taylor on the same play that would ultimately seal the victory. 

Ryland Holder closed the gap to 20-15 with a one-handed catch on a pass from Eli Buchanan, who had to scramble after the snap couldn’t get set for a PAT try.

Taylor also had a 49-yard run to set up his touchdown, then intercepted a pass late in the first half to keep Rockvale from adding to the lead.

Warren County received the ball to start the second half and proceeded to march down the field for the go-ahead score. The Pioneers kept it on the ground on an 11-play, 76-yard drive which culminated with Taylor scoring from seven yards out. A failed two-point try left Warren County clinging to a 21-20 advantage.

The Rockets regained the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. Lamarcus Nelson dove in from the Pioneer 1, giving the freshman tailback his fourth score of the night. His brother, quarterback Lamarious Nelson, ran in for a two-yard score to put Rockvale up 28-21.

Cox wasted no time getting the score back to even. On a four-play drive, Cox had two runs for 55 yards, including a 27-yard sprint where he broke free over the left edge and juked a defender at the 10 before walking in for the game-tying score.

Lamarious Nelson answered back with 4:52 left, wiggling through the Pioneer defense for a 26-yard touchdown. For the game, the sophomore QB had a team-leading 147 yards on the ground.

Buchanan sparked the Pioneers before their final drive, racing 40 yards on the kickoff to move the ball across midfield. The Pioneers got into trouble after a bobbled snap and penalty, forcing a third-and-14 from the Rockvale 41.

Warren County had to dial up the pass for a change and Taylor launched deep for Kason Holder. The junior wide receiver made an adjustment on an underthrow, tracking back and leaping over a defender to haul in a 32-yard catch at the Rockvale 9. 

Two plays later, Rozier walked in and Taylor soared over the top to push the Pioneers ahead 36-35.

The victory was sealed on a Dante Elam interception with 35 seconds left.

“I was reading my keys and saw the ball go up. I had to make an effort to go seal it for my team,” said Elam.

Warren County will be back in action Friday when it travels to Lawrence County. Kickoff against the 2-1 Wildcats will be at 7 p.m.