Warren’s offense has been battle-tested as it enters the 4A state semifinals against Valley View on Friday night.
Drake Jones accounted for four touchdowns last week as the Lumberjacks defeated Arkadelphia 31-24. Jones performance showed his mental toughness bouncing back from a leg injury the week before against Dardanelle. He was “about 70 percent” recovered, according to Warren head coach Bo Hembree.
“Being banged up, he just kept playing and our kids played extremely hard,” said Hembree.
In the same game that Jones went down, junior quarterback Justin Gorman commanded the offense with composure but it was running back Kilay Cox who took over. The junior rushed 19 times for 199 yards. It was his first game after being down two months due to an ankle injury.
Cox averages 6.1 yards per carry and could be the main factor in Friday night’s game.
The weather forecast is heavy rain with the temperatures dropping around the 30s, so there may be a chance of freezing rain. This circumstance may subject Warren to running the ball more.
The potential of a wet field may also have an effect on Warren’s “Big Three” receivers, consisting of senior Von Eric Gonder, junior Jaylon Marshall and junior Darveon Brown. The Lumberjacks’ tradition of producing talent at the flanker position is still alive and well with this trio.
Among them, Brown leads the team in catches (43) and touchdowns (11). Gonder has amassed 42 catches for 619 yards and seven touchdowns and Marshall has 29 catches for 668 yards and seven touchdowns this season. While it is apparent that the group compliments each other, they all have seemed to fit comfortably in their particular roles.
Last week against Arkadelphia, Brown was placed in at quarterback at times to bring a different type of speed to the position. While in the slot, he caught two touchdown passes to extend the lead and Gonder caught a touchdown pass that erased the Badgers’ momentum for a comeback. And although Marshall did not score a touchdown, his three catches for 96 yards put the team in good field position to score.
Valley View senior quarterback Noah Johns has faced a little adversity himself. Johns injured his ankle in Week 9 and missed two weeks of play. Even with this, he is on track to be a 2,000-yard passer and has thrown 24 touchdowns as he leads the Blazers to their first semifinals appearance since establishing a football program at the school six years ago.
Last week, Valley View defeated Maumelle 37-17. The Blazers defense held Maumelle to 57 yards rushing and 27 yards through the air.
As for the Lumberjacks, the only thing standing between them and an appearance in the 4A state championship are the Blazers. After starting the season 0-3, the team averaged 43 points per game throughout conference competition.
So whether it may be an injury, the rain or someone needing to step up; they have proven so far this season that nothing can hold back their offense.