Warriors battle four quarters in loss to Poets

The Russell County Warriors made their way to Montgomery last week to take on the Sydney Lanier Poets in a Friday night battle under the lights. This was only the second road game of the season for the young Warriors, with the first trip being a low scoring 14-6 loss to Carroll Ozark. Unfortunately this game went much the same way, with the Poets taking care of business at home in a 12-0 win.

Head Coach Mark Rose is proud of the effort from his team. “Our kids faught hard. It was a tough loss because we were right there. Once again, they’ve come back and practiced hard. This is one of the hardest working teams we’ve had.”

Yards were tough to come by for Russell County, as Sydney Lanier stacked the box from the opening snap and didn’t let up. The first drive for the Warriors stalled at the 46-yard-line and resulted in a punt. The Russell County defense answered the stop with a three and out, which was caused by a tackle for loss by Dozie Oriuwa, a sack by Kaleb Epps, and a long pass down the sideline broken up by Lee Camper. With Lanier punting from deep in their own territory on fourth down, the punt looked to be partially blocked. This gave the Warriors the perfect scoring opportunity, taking over from the 15 yard line. Quarterback Dammuon Epps tried to get the offense going with a couple of strong runs and led the offense to a fourth-and-three. His fourth down run came up just short, resulting in Lanier getting the ball back at their own six-yard line.

This is when the Poets, who were in four and five wide almost the entire game, started running a hurry up offense. The Warriors were able to generate pressure on the quarterback throughout the drive, but he scrambled and made plays. The 94-yard drive featured a 45-yard pass on a quarterback scramble, a 19 yard pass, and a one-yard touchdown run.

Trailing 6-0, the Warriors continued to lean on their quarterback and their defense. Epps was able to complete a 20-yard pass to Myrick Jackson on third-and-19 in the second quarter, but a penalty and high snap stalled the drive early in the second quarter. The Russell County defense again answered the Lanier stop with one of its own, generating another three and out on the Poets third possession. The Warriors had a couple of other drives before the half, but just couldn’t get anything going offensively. The Last drive before halftime for the Poets featured a sack from Dazele Pridgett and a quarterback pressure from Jamiere Willis for the Warrior defense.

The first drive of the second half for Sidney Lanier was much the same as the first half, with the Warrior defense generating pressure on the quarterback. A batted pass by Kaleb Epps and a near sack from Tarik York forced another three and out. Unfortunately, the defense for the Poets was much the same in the second half as well. They were able to hold off everything the Russell County offense threw at it. It also became obvious that it game plan changed to running the ball and running the clock, leaving the Warrior defense on the field for much of the second half.

The Russell County defense stepped up yet again in second drive of the second half. Keleb Epps continued his second half dominance with a tackle for loss and another quarterback pressure. Camper got the big stop when Lanier went for it on fourth down instead of punting. The Warrior defense continued to fight on the next Lanier drive, which only lasted one play. This was due to Epps causing a fumble, which was recovered by Pridgett.

Lanier was able to generate a couple of first downs late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, which kept the Russell County defense on the field for a good bit of time. The drive eventually stalled due to a long pass breakup from Camper and more pressure on the quarterback by the Warrior defense. Its other score came late in the fourth with a couple of minutes left on the clock on a worn out Russell County defense.

Myrick Jackson led the Warrior defense with 13 tackles. Jamiere Willis followed with nine tackles, one tackle for loss, half a sack, and two quarterback pressures. Not to be outdone, Courtney Martin had nine tackles and a tackle for loss. Tarik York joined in on the fun with eight tackles, one tackle for loss, and two quarterback pressures. Epps finished with eight tackles, two tackles for loss, one and a half sacks, one quarterback pressure, and one forced fumble. Azayvier Lokey pitched in with 11 tackles of his own.Jaylen Davis rounded out the defense with eight tackles, one tackle for loss, and one sack.

The Warriors will travel to Eufaula tomorrow night for their last road game of the season. The Tigers have a 5-2 record on the season, coming off of a 50-29 victory over Park Crossing last Friday night. The Class 6A Region 2 matchup will begin at 8 p.m., with the Tigers coming in with a 2-1 region record. Russell County is 2-5 on the season and 0-3 in region play.

Rose says his team is ready for another big region game. “It’s a big game. They’re second in scoring on offense in 6A. We’re having great preparation. We’ll be ready to go.”