By Jeffrey Simmons, Southern Standard
After the Coffee County Central High School football team dropped its first five games, seeing Warren County on the schedule was a welcome sight to the Red Raiders.
Playing the Pioneers, whom Coffee County had beaten 11 of the last 12 years, was supposed to
be a jump start to a successful second half of the season. But like everything else this season for the Red Raiders – that didn’t go as planned.
Warren County used big plays in the second half to beat the Red Raiders 43-32 and end any chance of Coffee County clawing its way back into the playoff race. It also dropped Coffee County to 0-6, its worst start to the season since 2001 when the Raiders started 0-9 before beating, ironically, Warren County to end the season.
Red Raider head coach Lee Davis knew Friday was a make-or-break game for his team if the Red Raiders wanted to make the playoffs for a third straight season.
“We made mistakes – mistakes on offense, defense and special teams. Mistakes can kill you,” said Davis. “ Warren County played really well and coach Tommy Johnson did an outstanding job getting ready for this game.”
Three turnovers, which resulted in 21 points for the Pioneers, negated a huge night for Coffee County quarterback Peyton Meeker.
Meeker threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns as Warren County sold out to stop talented running back Deangelo Rozier.
Meeker helped give Coffee County the lead on the first play of the second quarter after neither team was able to reach the end zone in the first 12 minutes.
Standing at the Coffee County 26-yard line, Meeker took a shotgun snap and rolled to his left. As the Pioneer pressure closed in, Meeker was able to spot Kyle Douglas running free in the middle of the field. Meeker lofted a perfect pass over the Warren County defense that hit Douglas in stride over midfield. Douglas did the rest as he raced to the endzone to give the Red Raiders an early advantage.
David Morgan, who missed a 27-yard field goal on the first possession of the game, had his extra point blocked to keep the score 6-0.
Warren County wasted little time coming back. The Pioneers marched 60 yards in six plays as Cameron Lusk knotted the score at 6-6 with a 10-yard touchdown run. Lusk made it 8-6 moments later when he scored on a trick play.
The first Coffee County miscue came on the ensuing kickoff. Jeffrey Simmons fielded the kick and worked his way upfield, but the senior was stripped and the Pioneers recovered the fumble to set up Warren County with great field position.
The Pioneers capitalized on the turnover when quarterback Lee Carden scored on a two-yard sneak. The extra point made it 15-7 Warren County with 7:57 to play in the second quarter.
Coffee County’s next drive had promise, but it came to an end when a snap flew over Meeker’s head on fourth down and led to a sack near midfield.
Warren County rallied behind the big defensive play as Hunter Mullican capped another scoring drive with a quarterback sneak to give the Pioneers a 22-6 lead at halftime.
After the half, Coffee County forced a punt by the Pioneers and embarked on a drive into Warren County territory, but Meeker’s lone mistake put the game away.
On third-and-9 near midfield, Meeker threw a pass over the head of Simmons and hit Carden right in the numbers. The Pioneer safety raced 54 yards for a score as Warren County went ahead 29-6.
Rozier started finding his groove to bring the Red Raiders back. Rozier scored on back-to-back drives, the second set up by a fumble recovery by Logan Baumstein, to make it 29-18 with 1:47 left in the third quarter.
With momentum shifting toward the Red Raiders, a special teams breakdown ended any hopes of a comeback.
Coffee County kicked off to the Pioneers and Maurkel Breedlove was able to weave through the Red Raider coverage team on his way to an 81-yard touchdown return.
With Warren County doubling up the Red Raiders on the scoreboard 36-18 going into the fourth quarter, the Pioneers rode Lusk to a win. Lusk finished a night where he rushed for 147 yards with his second touchdown to put Warren County up 43-18 with 3:08 left to play.
Coffee County didn¹t quit trying to comeback though. Meeker threw his second long touchdown 30 seconds later, hitting Jesse Brown for a 46-yard scoring strike. Meeker was sacked on the two-point try.
An onside kick failed to get the Red Raiders the ball back, but when the Pioneers went to punt on the final play of the game, Cody Howes broke through the line and blocked the kick. Hunter Smithson scooped and scored from 20 yards out and Meeker added a two-point conversion run to provide for the final score.
Coach Davis was pleased with the way the Red Raiders played to the final whistle, but keeping that kind of motivation for the rest of the season will be the challenge.
“This was a big loss because it knocks us out of the playoffs,” said Davis.
“We¹ll find out what kind of team we are, what kind of coaches we are, what kind of men we are when we go to The Pit this week.”
Coffee County (0-6 overall / 0-2 District 6-AAA) will travel to Lincoln County (1-6 / 1-2 8-AAA) for a 7 p.m. kick Friday. The Raiders last beat the Falcons in 1997. Before that Coffee County’s last win over the Falcons came in 1981.