On nights when the weather is less than perfect, coaches place added importance on ball control and playing soundly in all three phases of football.
Tuesday night, the Warren County Middle School team couldn’t hold on to the football and had several special-team miscues in a 32-14 loss to Shelbyville Harris Middle School.
The special-team blunders started at the opening whistle. The Pioneers kicked off to open the game and Krojhn Calbert’s kick went between the two Shelbyville players and looked destined for the endzone.
Shelbyville’s kick returner didn’t give up on the play though. The Golden Eagle went back and retrieved the ball at the goal line and raced down the left sideline 100 yards for a touchdown.
Shelbyville added the two-point conversion on a quarterback sneak to make it 8-0 with just 36 seconds off the game clock.
Warren County wasted little time striking back. After returning the ensuing kickoff to their own 24, the Pioneers matched Shelbyville in one play.
Darius Wright took a handoff and went off the right side of the line to find open room. Wright navigated his way through the Shelbyville secondary and down the right boundary 74 yards to score on the Pioneers’ first play.
Warren County tried to even the score with a two-point conversion, but a botched snap spoiled the attempt.
Action settled down after the teams combined to score two touchdowns on the first three plays. Shelbyville took a 8-6 lead into the second quarter, but turnovers gave the visitors the break they needed.
The Pioneers’ first turnover of the first half came when Calbert went back for a punt attempt, but couldn’t get the kick off and was tackled for a huge loss. Warren County was able to keep Shelbyville off the scoreboard momentarily, but it would be a precursor of things to come.
On Warren County’s next possession, quarterback Christian Wilkinson tried to hit Rickie King with a pitch on a toss sweep near midfield. The ball went behind King, leaving the running back to scramble backwards. King wasn’t able to get a grasp on the ball and Shelbyville recovered in prime position to score.
It looked like the Pioneers had held Shelbyville again when the visitors faced a fourth-and-long at the Warren County 19, but a busted play turned into a touchdown for Shelbyville.
Shelbyville had trouble lining up for the play, sending two wide receivers to each side. Near the Warren County sideline, a receiver fell forward before the snap, leaving most waiting for an illegal procedure penalty. The whistle never came and the Shelbyville quarterback took the snap and scrambled into the endzone for a momentum-swinging touchdown.
Another two-point conversion made it 16-6 with 4:01 to play, but deficit would get bigger for Warren County shortly after.
After a three-and-out, Calbert came back for another punt. With the wet conditions making everything difficult, Calbert fumbled the snap and was dropped at the Pioneer 1 to give Shelbyville the ball on Warren County’s goal line.
Shelbyville scored on the next play and converted another two-point conversion to build its lead to 24-6 with 2:30 to play.
Warren County had one final shot to score, but its final drive before the half ended abruptly. Christian Wilkinson had a 20-yard run as the clock was winding down, but it appeared Wilkinson stepped out of bounds at the Shelbyville 32 with :02 remaining on the clock.
The side official marked Wilkinson out of bounds, but the clock continued to run. When the halftime horn blew, the referees didn’t add the time back and sent the teams to the locker room.
The action happened right in front of the Warren County bench and coach Greg Cotten. The play drew the ire of Cotten, who ended up being flagged for a 15-yard penalty for arguing the call.
Warren County looked like it was going to get back in the game when Izzy McDonnell returned the second-half kickoff 75 yards and Wilkinson scored on a five-yard quarterback sneak two plays later, but it would prove to be the last touchdown for the Pioneers.
Rickie King added a two-point conversion to close the gap to 10 for one possession, but Shelbyville would score on its next possession to leave Warren County with an 18-point victory.
Warren County dropped to 3-1 after losing the battle of Central Tennessee Conference unbeatens. The Pioneers will be back on their home field Tuesday when they play host to Tullahoma at Nunley Stadium. Next week’s kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.