Three games in five days didn’t seem to slow down the Warren County Middle School football team. The Pioneers capped off a 3-0 week last Saturday by traveling to Smith County and defeating the Owls 35-16 in the Quarterback Club Bowl.
The win finished off a 7-3 season for the Pioneers in the fourth season for coach Greg Cotten. It was the highest win total for coach Cotten in his four-year tenure.
Warren County played two games last week, winning 20-14 in White County and taking home an overtime victory over Whitwell 24-22.
The back-loaded schedule didn’t slow down over the weekend. Warren County took one day to rest on Friday before venturing to Smith County for the Saturday bowl game.
For the third straight game, the Pioneers found themselves in an early hole before rallying for the win.
Smith County opened the game with a five-play drive which took two minutes and resulted in a touchdown. Following a successful two-point conversion, Smith County led 8-0.
Things got even worse for Warren County on the ensuing drive. On the first play from scrimmage, Izzy McDonnell was hit and fumbled. Smith County recovered at the Warren County 24, setting the home team up with great field position.
The Pioneer defense got the ball back quickly though. On second down, Smith County ran outside and cornerback Josh Clark laid a big hit on the ball carrier. Darius Wright recovered the fumble and Warren County took over possession.
Quarterback Christian Wilkinson took off for a 30-yard run on the next play, then hit Rickie King with back-to-back passes to get the Pioneers in the endzone.
The first pass went for four yards, but the second was a 65-yard scoring strike where King made a juggling catch.
King reached out and got his fingertips on the ball and batted it in the air. After running five yards knocking the ball up in the air, King was able to control a carom and run untouched the final 20 yards for a score.
King added the two-point conversion to tie the game at eight at the end of the first quarter.
The first play of the second quarter featured two turnovers and a touchdown.
Smith County was driving deep in Pioneer territory, but Wright intercepted a pass and only needed to beat one player to score.
The one Owl made the play though. Wright was stripped of the ball and Smith County recovered and ran in 20 yards for a touchdown. The play stunned the Pioneers as Smith County tacked on a two-point conversion to take a 16-8 lead into halftime.
Coming out of the locker rooms, Evan Reynolds returned the opening kickoff 27 yards to set up his team with good field position.
Warren County leaned heavily on the run on the four-play scoring drive, using three straight runs by King to get to the goal line. At the Smith County 2, Wilkinson snuck in for the score to bring the Pioneers within two.
The two-point conversion was stuffed, leaving Warren County down two with 6:48 left in the third quarter.
The Pioneers forced a punt from Smith County on the following drive, then went right back to work on the ground.
King and Wright alternated carries to put Warren County at the Smith County 30 facing a fourth-and-one. King got the call to pick up the yard, but he got much more. King broke through the line and went 30 yards as the third-quarter horn sounded. King added the two-point conversion to make it 22-16 after three quarters.
Smith County nearly started the fourth quarter with a bang. On the kickoff, Smith County broke open and had plenty of room to run. McDonnell ran down the returner at the Warren County 17 to make a touchdown-saving tackle.
McDonell’s hustle paid off when Warren County stopped Smith County on fourth down near the goal line. Clark intercepted a pass to give Warren County the ball back.
The Pioneers kept feeding King when the team took over on offense. King, who finished with 198 yards rushing, ran three straight plays. The final one went for a 35-yard TD. The two-point try failed, but Warren County led 28-16 with 4:24 to play.
Smith County was forced to throw when the team got the ball back, but the Pioneer defense was prepared. Brendon Breedlove intercepted a pass on fourth-and-seven and raced 48 yards for Warren County’s final touchdown. Reynolds kicked his second extra-point of the season to close out the scoring.
Both teams emptied the bench in the final two minutes as the Pioneers finished the season with a 19-point bowl victory.