Warriors victorious over Cookeville 59-54

Photos by Julia Morris Photography


The SEC has commercials that proclaim that, in the SEC, “it just means more.”  One could say the same thing about rivalry games.  On Sept. 9, 2022, both the Sparta and Cookeville teams came in fired up and ready to compete.

The Warriors had a lot on the line. They had the chance to start 4-0 for the first time since the 1970s. They had the opportunity to beat Cookeville two times in a row for the first time since the 1980s. A win on Cookeville’s home field would be a first in decades.  It would prove to be a record-breaking night for both teams.  Fans from both sides were treated to a wild ride of a ballgame, with offensive numbers that looked like something from a video game set on rookie mode. 

The game featured 17 total touchdowns and well over 1,000 yards in offense. Malaki Dowell would have his best night ever as a Warrior, with 477 yards rushing and a total of seven touchdowns.  Cookeville quarterback Mace Thomsen would throw for 457 passing yards and six touchdowns.  Both teams displayed high-powered offenses but attacked the defenses in very different ways.  It was a battle of Cookeville’s air attack versus the running attack of the Warriors.

White County received the opening kick and started the first drive on their own 20-yard line. The ground attack began to get rolling. Tripp Pinion ran for six. Dowell broke off his first 23-yard run. It was then that Pinion would fake the ball to Dowell and keep it for a beautiful 48-yard score. Nate Mullins would kick the extra point, making the score 7-0 in favor of the Warriors.

Cookeville would start their drive on the 33-yard line and begin to move the ball. Mace Thomsen threw a pass to Presley Jared for a gain of 38 yards.  A few plays later on a 4th down and 4,  Caden Outlaw would take the ball in from 23 yards out . The extra point by Sanchez-Cantu made the score 7-7.

White County would receive the short kickoff and began to pound the rock down the field again. Dowell ripped off runs of 24 and 14 yards. Pinion would use his legs to gain 17. Dowell would take his first touchdown of the night in from 10 yards out. The extra point was no good, making the score 13-7.

Cookeville would have their most successful drive running the ball on their next drive. Outlaw broke a 20-yard run. Thomsen would then break loose for a 22-yard scramble. They would complete the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brock Owen. The extra point gave Cookeville the lead 14-13.

White County received the ball and went on a methodical drive down the field. The offensive line was firing on all cylinders as they opened up lanes for both Pinion and Dowell.  Pinion would run for 15 yards, then hand it to Dowell who would take it for 14. Dowell would score his second touchdown of the night on an 11-yard run into the endzone. The extra point seesawed the lead back to the Warriors at 20-14.

On the next drive, it looked like the Warriors would stop the Cavaliers as they forced CHS to line up for a punt. Despite an obvious block in the back that was not called, the fake was successful, and the Cavaliers kept the drive alive. Thomsen would then hit 33- and 11-yard passes to Owen to get into the endzone. After a Cookeville penalty, the coach forced the Cavaliers to kick from 15 yards further back. Cookeville missed, and the score was tied 20-20.

A quick glance at the next Warrior drive would appear to show complete dominance by Dowell.  Dowell made some amazing runs of 22, 10, and 14 yards before taking in his third touchdown from six yards out. However, a closer look would reveal more dominant performances. The offensive line worked together like clockwork. Rylan Bumbalough was a battering ram as a fullback, knocking people off the ball and down the field.  The extra point after Dowell’s touchdown made the score 27-20 in favor of the Warriors.

Cookeville had a great kickoff return by Jackson Madewell that set them up in Warrior territory.  The Warrior defense was up for the challenge, and, after a big hit by Connor Brewington, the Warriors forced the Cavaliers to turn the ball over on downs.

On the ensuing Warrior drive. Malaki Dowell had back-to-back 14-yard runs. Pinion would break loose for a 20-yard run setting the Warriors up just five yards away from the endzone.  Dowell would score from three yards out.  The score moved to 34-20 with the Warriors in the lead.

The back-and-forth game continued as Cookeville took possession and began to move the ball with the use of the short passing game.   Mace Thomsen then found Presley Jared for a 47-yard touchdown.  The extra point was good making the score 34-27 in favor of the Warriors. The first half would end with the Warriors up by 7.

Cookeville would receive the kickoff to start the second half. Jared would catch a 30-yard pass from Thomsen.  White County intercepted the ball and appeared to have scored on an 80-yard return by Jaden Simpson but had the touchdown called back because the referee ran into an assistant coach on the Warrior sideline. The Warriors were 85 yards away from a score after the penalty. Dowell and the Warrior offense went to work. After a couple of runs which had WCHS on the 48-yard line, Dowell would follow great blocks by Kobe Jones and Rylan Bumbalough for a 52-yard score. After the extra point attempt hit the goal post, the score would move to 40-27.

The Cavaliers received the next kickoff and proceeded to throw the ball down the field using short passes. They faced a pivotal fourth and two and converted, moving the ball to within 25 yards of the endzone.  A few plays later, Thomsen found Blake Owen for a 12-yard touchdown. The extra point made the score 40-34.

White County’s offense took the field next and did what they had done all night.  They ran the ball down the Cavaliers’ throat. A 19-yard run by Dowell was quickly followed by a 47-yard scamper into the endzone. Hayden Bilbrey had a great downfield block to set Dowell free for his sixth touchdown of the night. The Warriors went for two but came up short. The score moved to 46-34.

The Warrior defense had one of its best drives of the night on the Cavaliers’ next possession.  Bray Frasier had a huge sack on the Cookeville quarterback. A few plays later, Cookeville would turn the ball over on downs.

White County was given a short field to work with. After a short Dowell run, Pinion would find his big tight-end, Grayson Walker, for a 17-yard touchdown pass.  Once again, the Warriors would go for two and come up short. The lead for the Warriors was 18 points.

Cookeville was not about to give up and continued to fight back. Thomsen used precision passing to move the ball quickly down the field again.  Pass after pass found their target, and the last one of the drive found Jackson Madewell for a seven-yard score. This time, the Cavaliers would not convert on their two-point try, and the score would be 52-40. 

After the touchdown that got the Cavaliers within 12 points, they successfully recovered an onside kick. Thomsen threw passes of 13, 26 and 15 yards and hit Caden Outlaw in the endzone for a score. The extra point got the Cavaliers within five points with the score 52-47.

Cookeville tried for an onside kick again, but this time it was recovered by the Warriors. Dowell would throw his final haymaker of the night as he took the handoff 50 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the drive. The extra point was good, making the score 59-47.

The Cavaliers kept fighting and took the ball right down the field after the Warrior kickoff. Thomsen hit a big pass play to Jared. After a couple of quarterback scrambles to get the home team close to the endzone,  Caden Outlaw would carry the ball in from two yards out. The extra point made the score 59-54.

The Warriors would recover yet another onside kick attempt and would run out the clock to secure the victory and put an end to an epic game. Players and fans from the two teams will talk about the game for years to come. It really was a game for the ages.

As stated before, Dowell would finish with 477 yards on the night. It was the fifth most yards in a single game in Tennessee High School history.  Pinion had a great night as well with 148 yards rushing and another 47 yards through the air. The team would total 667 yards for the game.

Special things are happening around the White County football program. Dowell’s 1,265 yards through four games is leading the entire nation in rushing.  The people of White County have a special opportunity to show their support to this amazing group of young men.  Make the drive to Mount Juliet for the 7 p.m. game, on Sept. 16, to cheer the Warriors on to victory. Victory over Mount Juliet would put White County in a great position as they look to win a region title.    


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here