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Pioneers rocked by Lebanon

It was a good thing Warren County did its senior celebration before the game. Once the first whistle blew, Lebanon owned the rest of the night.

The Blue Devils dominated the regular season finale for both teams, beating the Pioneers 42-0 in their first matchup as Region 3-6A foes. It was the sixth straight loss for Warren County, which will only see its road get more difficult with a postseason trip to No. 1 Oakland next Friday.

Coach Matt Turner could tell early the physical mismatch between the programs. Lebanon didn’t waste time giving Warren County its best shot, scoring 21 first-quarter points and never looking back.

“They hit us in the mouth. And the bad thing is, we were in the places we needed to be and it’s just where we’re not physically strong enough yet as a unit,” said Turner. “It’s tough. These are young adults and young men we’re trying to develop. I think there was some flair and passion from last year, but they may not realize where we’re at. We’re rebuilding.”

It was a three-phase beatdown handed out by the Blue Devils at Nunley Stadium. With superstar QB Jaylen Abston at the controls, Lebanon moved the ball at will. Defensively, the Blue Devils ran their shutout streak to 14 straight quarters by blanking their third straight opponent (Lebanon beat Mt. Juliet 35-0 and Gallatin 14-0 in previous weeks).

And on special teams, Anthony Crowell would not go down once he got his hands on punts. Crowell finished with two punt-return TDs, going 54 yards to the house in the first quarter and flashing his speed and shiftiness again in the fourth quarter on a 45-yard return.

Crowell finished as the star for the Blue Devils, finishing with 95 yards receiving, 99 yards on his two punt-return TDs and a 68-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown after halftime.

All Turner could do after the came was tip his cap to a stout Lebanon team, which will enter the 6A playoffs with a 9-1 record and host Stewarts Creek next week.

“Lebanon was a daggum good football team. You can tell what the weight room has done from them. Hats off to them – they’re the region champs,” said Turner.

The Blue Devils showed off their blazing speed offensively in the first quarter, both in terms of athletic skill and pace of play. Lebanon didn’t waste time getting to the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball, keeping the Pioneer defense guessing all night.

Abston engineered a 92-yard TD drive in just 70 seconds on the visitor’s first drive. Abston was on the money on three straight throws, hitting Devin Greene for 19 yards on a wheel route and Crowell for 25 yards on a swing screen before going over the top for a 41-yard score to Kemontez Logue.

Crowell made it 14-0 in a blink, picking up a bouncing punt right near midfield before sprinting down the sideline. The Pioneers tried to spin Crowell down, but he was able to break two tackles near the 20 and waltz untouched into the endzone.

Jaythan Pleasant tried to get Warren County back into it late in the first quarter. The sophomore had a 30-yard kick return to set up good field position, then broke a 39-yard run to get into the red zone.

From there, the Pioneers stalled, ultimately tossing two straight incompletions to the turn the ball over on downs to Lebanon with 1:00 left in the period. It was still enough time for the Blue Devils to get another score.

Abston hit Crowell on a short hitch off play action to start the drive and the senior turned on the jets. Crowell went 60 yards in the flash, flipping the field to set up another score.

Devin Greene did the rest, popping off runs of 13 and 10 yards before walking in from two yards out with :04 left to make it 21-0. Brandon Martin added short TD runs of 2 and 1 yards in the middle quarters, helping enact the mercy rule.

Warren County did stop the Blue Devils on two drives throughout the game. Sophomore safety Donathan Lewis picked off Abston in the second quarter, while Ethan Bernhardt forced a Greene fumble Kaden Rutledge recovered in the second half.

The loss was just the third time the Pioneers have had the mercy rule enacted under Turner and the first time it has happened at Nunley Stadium in his tenure. It was the first mercy-rule loss in 19 games (Oakland beat the Pioneers 49-14 in 2019).

Warren County will travel to face the Patriots in the opening round of the 6A playoffs next Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Game Stats

Warren County passing – Nathan Elrod 2-for-7, 3 yards, Alex van Vuuren 0-for-2

Lebanon passing – Jaylen Abston 11-for-14, 212 yards, TD, INT

Warren County rushing – Jaythan Pleasant 10 carries, 77 yards, Braylon Grayson 11 carries, 56 yards, Eli Cantrell 11 carries, 43 yards, Nate Elrod 5 carries, 27 yards, Dawson Haley 1 carry, 10 yards, Alex van Vuuren 4 carries, 6 yards, Keldrick Cox 2 carries, 2 yards

Lebanon rushing – Devin Greene 10 carries, 67 yards, TD, Brandon Martin 6 carries, 26 yards, 2 TD, Jaylen Abston 2 carries, 19 yards, Brody Hall 1 carry, 6 yards

Lebanon receiving – Anthony Crowell 3 catches, 95 yards, Kemontez Logue 2 catches, 47 yards, TD, Nolan Sandefur 3 catches, 40 yards, Devin Greene 2 cathes, 26 yards, Rubin Brinkley 1 catch, 4 yards

Warren County receiving – Braylon Grayson 1 catch, 2 yards, Eli Cantrell 1 catch, 1 yard

Turner talks to the WCSA post game

Check out our Facebook video to hear coach Matt Turner talk with Ansley Mullican Murphree and Trevor Evans following the 42-0 loss against Lebanon.


Pioneers set to meet Oakland

It may have been a one-win regular season for Warren County, but that lone victory punched a playoff ticket. The Pioneers were able to claim the No. 4 spot in Region 3-6A thanks to its 21-14 victory over Cookeville back on Sept. 18. As the lowest seed from Region 3-6A, the Pioneers will be on the road to face to top team from Region 4-6A.

The unbeaten Oakland Patriots will be waiting in Murfreesboro next Friday night.

Warren County and Oakland are no strangers – the teams have met in each of the last six years. The Patriots won all six meetings between the programs since 2015, when they were paired as region foes. Oakland’s closest game on its way to a state title in 2020 was its 36-20 victory at Nunley Stadium last year.

The Patriots will enter the matchup on a 25-game winning streak. Oakland has won 51 of its last 52 games, including the 2018 and 2020 state championships. The lone loss during the stretch was a 12-0 defeat against Maryville in the 2019 state semifinals.

While coach Turner understands the challenges of facing the No. 1 team in the state, he’s not throwing in the towel.

“I’m not giving any end-of-the-year speeches because it’s not the end of the year. We have a great opportunity and we should be excited to get a chance to go to Oakland and redeem ourselves,” said Turner. “We have to play together and execute. At this point, you’re going to play good teams with good players – we’ll get to go play at against some five stars guys going to Georgia and Miami.

“That’s fine – we’re going to go back to work Monday. Life without adversity ain’t worth living.”

Oakland is led by Mr. Football candidate Jordan James, a 1,000-yard rusher who is committed to the University of Georgia. James had 196 yards rushing in last year’s meeting. The Patriots’ leading receiver is senior Isaiah Horton, who is committed to Miami.


Warren County honors Pedro Paz

Warren County was rocked by the passing of legendary coach Pedro Paz. Paz passed away last Friday, shortly before the Pioneers kicked off at Franklin County. Coach Turner and his staff painted ‘Coach Paz’ at the 50-yard line Friday night at Nunley Stadium and also blacked out the hashmarks at the 31 - Paz was No. 31 during his time with Tennessee Tech.


10 seniors play final game at Nunley Stadium

Before the game, Warren County held senior night, honoring all the seniors for fall sports. That included 10 seniors from the Pioneer football team – Keldrick Cox, Ethan Bernhardt, Austin Connor, Conner Smith, Ojani Hernandez, Dylan West, Eli Cantrell, Tay Miller, Jonathan White and Hunter Pezzimenti.

CLICK HERE for Painted Barn Media photos from Friday

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