Turnovers prove costly for Warriors
By Sparta Live | August 31, 2009 12:00 am
The home field is supposed to be a friendly environment for the team that calls the stadium home.
That wasn’t the case for the Warriors Friday night when Campbell County visited Dee Harris Field. Seven Warrior miscues that the Cougars turned into 28 points played a large role in the downfall of WCHS in the non-district contest. Four interceptions and three lost fumbles thwarted offensive efforts of the Warriors and placed the defense in sticky situations throughout the game. In the end, the scoreboard read “home – 12, visitor – 42” as WCHS fell to 0-2 on the season.
Despite the lopsided difference in the final score, several statistical categories were relatively close. Campbell County had just three more first downs (14-11) and the total yardage figures were not as vastly different as one would expect in a 30-point difference in points. The Warriors had 212 total yards and the Cougars had 285 total yards.
However, the rushing game, which was the Warriors biggest output in the opener, managed only 58 total yards while Campbell County rushed for 211 yards. The Cougars controlled the time of possession keeping the ball almost seven minutes more than the Warriors.
But the most telling statistic of all was the seven turnovers committed by the Warriors compared to only two by Campbell County. WCHS was not able to turn either of the two turnovers into points. In fact, following each Cougar miscue, the Warriors gave the ball back shortly thereafter. The Cougars scored on the series following four of the Warriors’ miscues including two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
The game began on a positive note for WCHS. They fielded the opening kick and methodically moved the ball down the field on the Cougar defense. They picked up three first downs mixing in passing and running plays. However, the red zone troubles continued for the Warriors. After a 12-yard completion to Robbie Johnson from Conor Sparkman got the ball inside the 20 to the 18 for a first down, things slowed from there. Actually, fullback, Travis Howard plunged ahead for five yards on first down, but they would only net two more yards over the next three plays turning the ball over on downs to the Cougars at the 11-yard line.
The Cougars, despite taking the ball over deep in their own territory, wasted little time in getting out from under the shadow of the goal post. A 13-yard run on the first play gave them breathing room. The drive consisted of 11 straight running plays getting the ball all the way down to the Warrior 14-yard line. However, the 12th running play of the drive was a miscommunication on the hand off and Seth Anderson recovered for the Warriors at the 20-yard line thwarting that long drive.
WCHS, however, coughed the ball up on the first play giving the ball right back to the Cougars. They took advantage and three plays were all they would need. After no gain on first down, the next play was an 18-yard pass completion and then a three-yard run took care of the six points. The point-after was good putting Campbell County on top 7-0 with just 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
WCHS went three and out on their ensuing series and Campbell County responded with another scoring drive. The Cougars covered 64 yards in five plays with the bulk of it coming on a 56-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was again good making the score 14-0 with 9:16 still to play in the first half.
For the Warriors, it was all about the missed opportunities. The two teams exchanged punts on each of their series. For the Warriors, Jordan Armstrong’s punt drove the Cougar returner back close to the end zone. He bobbled the ball and the Warriors had a great chance to force a turnover in or near the end zone, but missed a tackle and allowed the Cougars to escape. They did, however, have to start inside the 20 and were forced to punt. The 28-yard punt gave the Warriors their best starting field position of the night, the Cougar 40-yard line.
Sparkman and Johnson hooked up again to start the series and gave the Warriors a first down at the 29-yard line. A six-yard carry by Aaron Murray, who was held to just 47 rushing yards on the night after racking up 139 yards last week, to go along with a five-yard penalty on the Cougars had the Warriors back in the red zone at the 18-yard line. They again came up empty and even worse. Two plays later, Sparkman’s pass was intercepted and returned 85 yards to the end zone. The PAT was good and the lead had swelled to 21-0 with 3:17 to go before the half.
The Warriors went to work trying to get points on the board before the half. A 25-yard pass from Sparkman to Andrew Manus got 15 yards tacked on for a late hit and the Warriors were in business at the 30-yard line of the Cougars. Two plays later, the Cougars intercepted another pass. They, however, took over at the 12-yard line. The Warrior defense gave up a three-yard carry on first down, but back to back sacks by Murray and Seth Anderson backed the Cougars up and forced a punt from the end zone. Armstrong got his hand on the kick, but it managed to sail 19 yards. However, the Warriors had good field position again.
The first pass attempt was picked off and Campbell County dropped to a knee to run out the clock on the first half and took a 21-0 lead into the intermission.
The Warrior defense came out fired up to start the second half and immediately forced the Cougars to punt. The offense put together the first scoring drive of the game for WCHS.
An 11-yard completion from Sparkman to Anderson gave the Warriors a first down at the 43-yard line. The drive stalled at the 38 and, facing a fourth down, Armstrong came on to punt. The up-back, Travis Howard, instead fielded the snap and threw a touchdown strike of 38 yards to a wide-open Ethan Tollison. The PAT was no good, but the Warriors had made the score 21-6 with 7:50 still to play in the third quarter.
Campbell County found themselves with good field position following a 31-yard kick return. Carries of seven and eight yards respectively got them a first down at the 34-yard line. Four plays later on a fourth and six, the Warriors got the break they needed. Cody Fitts, a transfer student from Monterey, intercepted a Cougar pass at the 19-yard line.
The series didn’t start good for the Warriors though. The first play was a big run by Murray, but a flag negated the play and backed the Warriors up 10 yards. Two plays later, the Cougars intercepted their fourth pass of the contest and returned it 27 yards to pay dirt. The ensuing PAT upped the lead to 28-6 with 2:52 left in the third stanza.
Things only got worse. The Cougars onside kick went through four Warriors and Campbell County fell on it at the 32-yard line. Five plays later, they were back in the end zone on a 16-yard run. The resulting PAT increased the lead to 35-6.
The Warriors gave the ball right back when Murray fumbled the kick return after a 20-yard return. The defense was able to hold this time forcing the Cougars to turn the ball over on downs.
Each team would add one more touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Cougars scored on a five-yard run with 6:02 left to play. The Warriors answered on the next series when freshman running back, Devon Davidson scored from 10 yards out. The score was set up when Bradley Barker connected with Kane Young, another freshman, for a 26-yard pick-up. The point after was no good making the final score of 42-12.
In addition to the turnovers in the game, the Warriors were also without two senior starters who were suspended prior to the game for team rules violations.
A disappointed Coach Tracy Malone commented after the game, “Turnovers were the big thing tonight. We’re not going to beat anybody that way. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot putting their offense in a good position. Defensively, we struggled in the first half, but I thought we adjusted well in the second half. They just kept getting a short field to work with. We had some disciplinary issues before the game. We had to sit two starters. That affected a lot of different things. We’re in there having to adjust depth charts on offense, defense and special teams. Maybe the whole team learned something from that. We’re going to keep moving forward. We have to go back to work Monday at practice. It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve got a tough one next week. It’s a big rivalry game. Truth is, it’s not a rivalry until we beat them. I understand it’s been a while since that’s happened. We have to keep building for the future and make steps in the right direction. Every day we learn something. As long as they keep trying to learn, and they have, we’ll make strides. We’re just so far behind in a lot of areas right now. It can’t be fixed in four months.”
The rivalry game to which Malone refers is the battle of Highway 111 between two of the state’s oldest rivals, Sparta and Cookeville. The Warriors host the Cavaliers Friday at 7 p.m. Prior to the game, Life Care Center will be hosting a tailgate party.