Warriors lose on last-second field goal at Mt. Juliet

Photos courtesy of Julia Morris Photography

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Mt. Juliet is a traditional powerhouse in Tennessee high school football. They have facilities that would rival some small colleges. Their current team has several division one football recruits. White County went in as the number eight team in the state, but, in the eyes of many, they were considered the underdog against the Golden Bears.  The boys from Sparta went in ready to play and gave an effort that made every White County fan in the stands and at home watching on the internet proud. 

The Mt. Juliet Golden Bears got off to a fast start. They took the opening kickoff and started their first drive at the 40-yard line. The speedy running back for the Bears took the ball around the right side of the line and sprinted 60 yards for a quick touchdown.  The extra point made the score 7-0 before all the fans could get in their seats.

The Warriors received the ensuing kickoff and looked like they got off to a good start with a strong Malaki Dowell run, but it was called back on a questionable holding call. The penalty put the Warriors “behind the chains,” and, after a few plays, they were forced to punt. It was then that disaster struck. The snap went over punter Demarious Dowell’s head and was recovered by Mt. Juliet in the endzone for a touchdown. The extra point made the score 14-0

The next Warrior drive saw them move the ball with a few short runs. After a few first downs, the drive stalled, and the Warriors had to punt again.

The following Bears’ drive was quite eventful. Mt. Juliet had two touchdowns called back. One was an 80-yard touchdown that was called back because of a holding penalty. They also had a 75-yard quarterback keeper touchdown that was nullified because of an inadvertent whistle. The Bears then hit a 60-yard touchdown pass to Osize Daniyan. The extra point made the score 21-0 before the first quarter was even over.  The Warriors had taken a big punch but weren’t ready to quit fighting.

Malaki Dowell threw the first big punch for the Warriors as he took the ball 77 yards for touchdown on a 3rd and 6 play. The extra point by Nate Mullins made the score 21-7. The Warrior sideline begin to buzz as the boys from Sparta showed signs of life.

The team from Mt. Juliet punched right back on the next series. Bruising running back Keion Irby scored from 45 yards out. The score changed to 28-7 after the extra point.

White County’s scrappy sophomore quarterback, Tripp Pinion, took his turn in this battle of a football game on the next drive.  Pinion busted a long run of 65 yards to get the Warriors into the red zone.  He would call his own number a few plays later and make his way in for a 17-yard touchdown. Mullins’ extra point cut the Bear lead to 28-14.

The defense for the Warriors seemed to pick up on the momentum that the offense was providing. They forced the Bears to punt after just three  plays.  The wrecking crew of Dowell and Pinion went back to work on the next drive. Pinion had a 23-yard run through the Bear defense.  Dowell would take the ball the final 20 yards into the endzone.  The Bears knew they were in for a fight as after the extra point the score tightened to 28-21.

The Bears’ offense took the field again. The defense for the Warriors flew around the field making plays. A huge sack on the Mt. Juliet quarterback by Demarious Dowell and Nate Mullins forced the Bears to punt again.

The White County offense showed determination and grit as they methodically moved the ball down the field. Plays were sent in, and the linemen and receivers blocked as Dowell and Pinion did what they always do. A great 22-yard run by Dowell set the Warriors up around the five-yard line. Pinion would take the ball in for the score just before the half. The extra point made the score 28-28.  The Mt. Juliet fans, players, and coaches seemed stunned.  The White County football family was not surprised at all. Both teams made adjustments at halftime and prepared for the battle that would come in the second half.

The defenses from both teams had the advantage for the first part of the second half.  The Warriors went three and out. The Bears were also forced to punt. The potent Sparta offense sputtered on their second drive of the second half as well and had to punt again.

Mt. Juliet would put together the first good drive of the night.  Dearrius Morton would score from 77 yards out. The extra point gave the Bears the 35-28 lead.

After forcing another Warrior punt, the Golden Bears would begin moving the ball again. It looked as if they were certain to score but fumbled the ball on the five-yard line.  The Warriors would take advantage of their opportunity and would tie the game on a 62-yard touchdown run by Dowell. The extra point would tie the game again at 35-35.

Mt. Juliet would run the ball effectively behind blocking from UT commit Ayden Bussell. The Warrior defense fought hard and gave up a score to the Bears on a 23-yard run by Morton. The score was 42-35 in favor of the Bears, with just a few minutes left in the game.

The Warriors were not out of the game because there was still time on the clock, and Pinion and Dowell were in the backfield.  The drive that the Warriors executed was a thing of beauty. The Bears knew who was going to carry the ball; they would stack the box with defenders but couldn’t stop the Warriors. Malaki Dowell would run for a short gain then Pinion would pick up the first down. Pinion would gain yards then Malaki Dowell would gain more.  Nothing was going to stop the Warriors from scoring. With 17 seconds to go, Dowell would dive into the endzone to get within one point of the Bears.  Coach Mark Frasier would make the gutsy call to go for the two-point conversion and the win. Pinion would take the ball and squirt into the endzone.  The Sparta faithful went crazy! The Warriors had the lead 43-42.

Seventeen seconds don’t seem like a long time. The Warriors squib kicked the kickoff, keeping the ball away from the dangerous receivers of the Bears.  The Bears took over on the 40-yard line.  The coaching staff went deep into the playbook and called a hook-and-ladder play.  Somehow the play worked to perfection, and the Bears moved the ball close to the goal line.  With one second left on the clock, it would all come down to right foot of Bears’ kicker Daniel Echeverria.  The kick was good, giving the Bears the victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

The Warriors proved that they could play with anyone.  They left no doubt that they will be in the hunt for a regional title.  Sometimes you learn more from a loss than you ever do from a win.  The Warriors will regroup and be ready to battle again as Green Hill comes to Dee Harris Field on Sept. 23.  Whatever happens, there is no doubt the Warriors will continue to make White County proud.    

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