It was one of the toughest losses this season for the Warren County Middle School football team Tuesday in McMinnville.
The Tullahoma Wildcats struck early and led 12-0. Just out of the halftime, WCMS claimed the lead 14-12 early in the third quarter and then extended its lead to 21-12.
However, there was too much time left on the clock and Tullahoma marched down the field and not only scored but converted its two-point attempt. With a 21-20 lead the Pioneers turned the ball over on downs near midfield on a fourth-and-4.
Tullahoma reclaimed the lead on a 53-yard strike to a receiver who slipped behind the defender. The Wildcat defense held and Tullahoma defeated the Pioneers, 26-21.
WCMS picked up 158 yards on the ground, led by Kaden Jordan with 74 yards and C.J. Taylor with 57. WCMS threw the ball for 51 yards and the longest reception went to Jay Rozier good for 24 yards.
WCMS led with 7:31 left in the game when the Wildcats took over the ball on their own 47-yard line. The first play from scrimmage caught the Pioneers by surprise and the Wildcats hooked up on a pass over the Pioneer defense good for a 53-yard TD strike. The two-point conversion missed and the Wildcats clung to a 26-21 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Taylor returned the ball up the middle to the Wildcat 42-yard line. The first pass play of the drive was good for 11 yards to Braden Bottoms and fresh set of downs.
The Pioneers were down to third-and-8 and quarterback Dante Elam tucked the ball and ran for another 14 yards and a Pioneer first down. A flag took the Pioneers backward five yards and Xander Lee immediately picked those five yards back up and WCMS faced third-and-10.
Elam threw a strike to Jay Rozier on the roll out for a 24-yard gain and Rozier was brought down on the 5-yard line.
WCMS ran the ball unsuccessfully on its first two attempts from the 5-yard line. On third-and-goal, Elam rolled out and he appeared like he was going to run but pulled up and fired a pass low toward the goal line. The pass was incomplete.
The Wildcat defense responded on fourth down and held WCMS out of the endzone for a game-deciding stand. Tullahoma took over on downs with 1:25 to play.
Just after the half, the Pioneers had the ball on the Wildcat 25-yard line. On second-and-8, Jordan picked up a head of steam and lowered his shoulder. He bounced off tacklers and scored from 25 yards out and claimed the lead at 14-12.
Two possessions later, WCMS struck again on a 4-yard run by Taylor and extended the lead to 21-12. The scoring drive was set up by a 15-yard run by Jordan.
The Pioneers will be away next week but return home Sept. 29 versus Mt. Juliet with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m.