Warriors fall to Knights in second round of playoffs


On Nov. 11, the 9-2 White County Warriors traveled to Nolensville to take on the 11-0 Knights who were ranked second in the state going into the game.  The Knights’ roster is loaded with athletes with offers from schools all over the country.  The Warriors knew they were facing a challenge but never backed down and continued to make the community proud with their fight and willingness to give everything they had until the last whistle.  The game saw a total of 92 points scored, and neither team punted the ball the entire game. The game would prove to be a game of contrasting styles as the Warriors continued utilizing their powerful ground attack, and the Knights would spread the field and pass the ball. It was a very entertaining game and was close into the fourth quarter when Nolensville pulled away.

White County received the kickoff and went to work.  Tripp Pinion took the first snap and rumbled for 16 yards.  After stopping Malaki Dowell on the second play for almost no gain, the Knights’ defense made the first big play of the game by poking the ball out of Dowell’s hands on a long-run play that would have given the Warriors another first down. Instead, the Knights recovered the fumble and were set up with great field position for their first drive.

Nolensville spread the Warriors out and then ran the ball effectively up the middle.  Samson Johnson ran the ball through the heart of the Warrior defense for several good gains.  He then took the ball and plunged into the endzone to give the Knights the early lead.  Reese Miller’s extra point made the score 7-0 in favor of the home team.

White County got the ball back and began moving the ball down the field behind good blocking and hard running.  Malaki would tote the rock for two or three plays, picking up a first down. Pinion broke free for a nice 12-yard run.  After getting into Knight territory, the Warriors were faced with a makable fourth down.  A fumbled snap caused the Warriors to turn the ball back to the Knights.

         The high-powered Nolensville offense took the field. Johnson took off on a 30-yard run. After a penalty slowed the Knights down for a moment, Johnson took a screen pass for a 10-yard pickup. Quarterback Coby Watson found Nicolas Rosomondo for a 20-yard touchdown pass.  The extra point gave the Knights a two-score lead at 14-0.

If the Nolensville Knights thought the Warriors would lay down after falling behind, they obviously hadn’t been paying attention to the Warriors this year.  The Warriors took the ball. Two Dowell runs and a Pinion scramble produced a first down.  Dowell would run for a another first down. Tripp would then break loose on a 40-yard scamper.  Dowell would move it closer, with two hard runs before Pinion would take it into the endzone from five yards out. Nate Mullins kicked the ball through the uprights to make the score 14-7.

Nolensville would turn to running back Zion Tamaska on their next drive. He started with eight-yard run, then followed it up with a 25-yard burst.  The White County defense rose to the occasion, however, and caused a fumble that was recovered by Darvon Richmond.

Three plays into the ensuing drive, Pinion would take off on a 59-yard touchdown run.  The extra point was good. Nolensville’s staff, team, and fans knew their team was in for a fight.  The score was now tied at 14 apiece.

Nolensville fought back on the next drive. The first couple of plays were won by the White County defense. The Knights were faced with a third and long situation. The quarterback threw the ball up for grabs, and the Knights’ talented receiver, Chance Fitzgerald, made an amazing catch and broke several tackles to pick up the first down. Johnson would pick up another first down running, before catching another screen pass for a big pick up.  Johnson would cover the final 20 yards to the endzone and score again for the Knights. The extra point gave the Knights the lead back at 21-14.

The see-saw game continued as White County got the ball and began to drive the ball again.  Malaki used a couple of strong runs for a first down.  A few plays later, the Warriors were faced with a 3rd and 1 on the 49-line.  Malaki took the ball and read his blockers well before hitting a hole with a burst of speed.  He shed the would-be tacklers and outran the defense to the endzone for another score.  The extra point tied the score at 21.

The Knights took the ball and continued the offensive onslaught. Johnson ran for a first down. Watson scrambled for 15 yards. Watson then found Dylan Northcutt for a touchdown from 52 yards out. The extra point made the score 28-21 in favor of the Knights.  This would remain the score through halftime.

The Knights would take the second half kickoff and return it to midfield. It only took a few plays for them to find the endzone again. After a 12-yard run by Johnson. Watson hit Northcutt with a 24-yard touchdown pass. The extra point gave the Knights a two-score lead at 35-21.

White County did what they always do. They just kept fighting.  Three hard runs by Dowell gave them a first down. Then facing a 3rd and 3, Pinion would break loose for a 15-yard run. He then would run for 10 more yards.  Malaki would run for nine yards before breaking loose on the next play for a 37-yard score. The Knights jumped offsides on the extra point so the Warriors decided to go for 2 points, with the ball moved closer to the goal line.  The conversion failed, leaving the score 35-27 in favor of the Knights.

The Nolensville team got the offense rolling on the next drive behind great running by Samson Johnson and great receiving by Chance Fitzgerald. Johnson had several big runs. Fitzgerald had a key catch that kept the drive alive on third down.  Johnson would score from 18 yards out, making the score 42-27.

The boys from White County put together a strong drive on their next possession. Dowell and Pinion would take turns moving the ball down the field. Dowell would run for eight. Pinion would run for 12. Dowell ran for 13 more yards.  He would then carry the ball inside the four as the Warriors were looking to score.  The Knights’ defense stood tall and stopped the Warriors on the one-yard line.  The Warrior defense then made a great play, stopping the Knights’ quarterback in the endzone for a safety.  The 2 points tightened the score to 42-29.

After the safety, the Knights were forced to kick the ball back to the Warriors. The one-two punch of Dowell and Pinion struck again as they quickly moved the ball down the field. Both Warriors had great runs setting up another Malaki Dowell touchdown. The extra point by Nate Mullins made the score 42-36.

Nolensville would get the ball and face a determined White County defense.  After two plays, the Knights faced a 3rd and 12.  It looked like the quarterback threw the ball up for grabs.  The huge receiver, Chance Fitzgerald, went up for the ball and caught it. He broke a couple of tackles and picked up a first down. He would then take a short pass and zig-zag his way 51 yards for a score. The extra point was good, making the score 49-36.

With time running out, White County was forced to throw the ball on their next drive.  Pinion was picked off on a beautiful play by a Nolensville defender.  The Knights would take the next offensive snap and hand it to Tamaska who would rumble 77 yards for the game’s last touchdown, making the final score 56-36.

The loss ended the Warriors’ great season.  Some would try to define the season by numbers such as: Nine wins, 4,996 yards rushing yards, 5,565 all-purpose yards, 3,201 yards by Malaki Dowell (second most in Tennessee high school history), 1,605 yards rushing by Tripp Pinion (sixth all-time rushing yards for a quarterback in the state), and 494 points scored.  The success of this season cannot be measured by numbers. It was found in the excitement that was created in the community. It was witnessed by bleachers filled at both home and away games.  It was celebrated and cherished by kids lined up to get a high five from their favorite player, and senior citizens sending cards to let the players know how much they meant to them. 

Several years ago, the stands and sidelines at Dee Harris field were almost empty after back-to-back winless seasons.  This season has brought a lot of joy to the community.  A foundation has been laid that should help the Warrior football program to flourish for years to come.  It is appropriate this week before Thanksgiving to say a big thank you to Coach Mark Frasier, his staff, his support team (including his wife, Tricia Frasier) and every one of the Warriors for all their hard work and for taking us along on this special journey.


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