LCHS head football coach Caleb Sorrells is not in panic mode yet.
In fact, the first-year Lumpkin football coach is staying optimistic that, given time, reps and experience, his players have what it takes to change the face of the program.
“I don’t question the effort and I don’t question the heart,” said Sorrells. “We just need to keep working hard in practice and in games to be able to execute better as the season continues.”
Execution was the biggest factor in the game, as the Warriors played like a well-oiled machine and didn’t make the little mistakes that the Indians made in the game.
“It’s a long term process and we’re still at the very beginning of it,” Sorrells said. “And, I’m not convinced that we can’t be a real good team. We just have to learn to execute in every phase. They’re [White County] a good team. They’re the opposite of us right now. They execute very, very, very well. We just have to get to that point.”
The first half of the game was a complete nightmare for the Indians, who couldn’t seem to get anything going on either side of the ball against the Warriors.
Indians quarterback Tucker Kirk started the opening drive of the game with a nice pass to Ryan Burkhart for a nine-yard pickup. However, the drive would end on the very next play when LCHS running back Drew Allison had the ball ripped from his grasp and a White County defender fell on it.
The Warriors’ offense, led by junior quarterback J. Ben Haynes, quickly benefited from the Lumpkin turnover when it drove 42 yards for the game’s first touchdown. After missing his first two pass attempts, Haynes found wide receiver Cooper Turner open in the flats for a 26-yard pickup that got the Warriors to the Indians’ 16-yard-line. On the next play, running back Zion Mcmullen weaved his way through the Lumpkin defense for a 16-yard touchdown run that put White County up 7-0, after the successful extra point, with 10:47 remaining in the first quarter.
Kirk wasn’t able to sync up with his receivers on the Indians’ second drive of the game and Lumpkin was forced to punt after three straight incomplete passes.
Starting from their own 46 after the Lumpkin punt, the Warriors’ offense continued to give the Lumpkin defense fits and methodically drove down the field. Haynes complete two big passes to Will Sampson and Reece Dockery to get the Warriors to the Indians’ 18-yard-line. Mcmullen picked up 10 yards on two carries before Haynes took it to the house on an eight-yard quarterback keeper. Haynes’ touchdown extended the Warriors’ lead on the Indians to 14-0.
White County added seven more points to the scoreboard after forcing the Indians into another three-and-out to build its lead to 21-0 with 4:27 left in the first quarter. The Warriors third touchdown of the game came off a two-yard run by Mcmullen. To that point in the game, the Indians’ defense could not find an answer for White County’s potent offense.
While the defense had its troubles, the Indians’ offense had troubles of its own for the remainder of the half. The Indians struggled to get a meaningful drive started on offense and the defense allowed another 10 points, a five-yard touchdown run by Haynes and a field goal, by the time the halftime whistle sounded.
Despite the 31-0 hole that the Indians found themselves in to start the second half, Lumpkin’s players continued to fight for the final two quarters of the game. And, although they would eventually lose the game by a final of 49-6, there were some positives to be taken from the Indians’ second half performance.
For one, the Indians’ defense began to figure things out and execute better on the defensive side of the ball. Lumpkin started to get backfield pressure, started to mark receivers closer and started to make stops in the second half after White County scored on its opening drive of the half.
For another, after letting up a safety on its first drive of the second half, the Indians’ offense began to execute better, began to open up running lanes and began to find success through the air. The in-game improvements led to the Indians scoring their only points of the game at end the third quarter.
Trailing 43-0, the Indians’ scoring drive began on their own 32-yard-line. Kirk started the drive off with a dart to tight end Aaron Hopkins for a 35-yard reception. Kirk tried to go back to Hopkins on the next play, but the pass fell incomplete. Kirk then found wide receiver Brian Cunane for a seven-yard pickup that moved the Indians to the Warriors’ 26-yard-line. After a couple of penalties and a quarterback sack, the Indians were pushed back to the White County 32, but Kirk once again found Cunane with a sharp pass for a 12-yard reception to get the Indians in the red zone. The Indians switched gears and handed the ball of to Allison, who picked up four hard-fought yards to get Lumpkin to the 16-yard-line. On the next play, Kirk and Cunane hooked up for the third time in the drive for a 16-yard touchdown. The score cut the Warriors’ lead to 43-6 after the Indians missed the extra point attempt.
The drive showed just what the Indians are capable of when they mix their running attack with their aerial game. Kirk went 4-for-5 and threw for 44 yards on the drive with his main target being Cunane, who caught three balls for 35 yards and a touchdown.
In the end, White County won the game by a final score of 49-6.
The loss dropped the Indians’ overall record to 0-2 to start the 2019 season.
“We’ve got a lot of players that don’t have a lot of experience,” Sorrells said. “We just have to get better. At the start of the season, I wanted us to have a different theme for each game. For the season opener it was discipline. Each person taking care of their job, their position. That was the theme again to night and discipline will continue to be the theme. We can’t move on to the next goal without having conquered the first.”
The game marked the 50th year of the rivalry between the two schools, a rivalry in which White County has a 76 percent win percentage.
Sorrells is sure that his players will improve from the lessons they learned during their matchup with the Warriors and believes that given the time to perfect their execution, his team will be able to turn things around as the season progresses.
“We have to do the things that we know we need to do in order to be competitive,” Sorrells said. “We all have to come Monday and be ready to get better. I think we will. I think we’ll get better. I believe in what we’re doing. The players and staff believe in what we’re doing. It just takes time.”
The LCHS varsity football team will be back in action when they take to the gridiron at Jackson County High School to square off with the Panthers in a non-conference matchup this Friday, Sept. 6. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
LCHS head football coach Caleb Sorrells is not in panic mode yet.