Warren started 0-3 this season and later suffered an overtime loss to a longtime rival.
Despite those setbacks, the Lumberjacks are in a place they're familiar with during Coach Bo Hembree's tenure at the school -- the Class 4A semifinals, where Hembree is 7-0 in his career at Warren.
The Lumberjacks will travel to Rivercrest to take on the 4A-3 Conference champion Colts on Friday at Cortez Kennedy Stadium in Wilson.
Warren (8-4) lost its first three games to White Hall, Stuttgart and Texarkana. The Lumberjacks lost once in 4A-8 Conference play at rival Monticello in the Saline River Shootout 18-12 in overtime Oct. 23.
Warren hasn't lost since, winning five in a row including playoff victories over Lonoke, Arkadelphia and Nashville. In Warren's 48-40 quarterfinal victory at Nashville on Friday, sophomore quarterback Maddox Lassiter passed for 178 yards and a touchdown, and junior Jacari Lee returned an interception 67 yards for a score.
The Lumberjacks start eight sophomores on offense, including Lassiter.
Hembree said he's proud of how his team has rebounded this season.
"It's a unique team," Hembree said. "But the kids have come to work every day."
Rivercrest (12-0) has rolled through its schedule thanks to the play of senior quarterback Kam Turner.
Turner is one of the state's top dual-threat players. He's passed for 2,835 yards and 37 touchdowns while rushing for 1,634 yards and 22 scores.
"He's had a phenomenal year," Rivercrest Coach Johnny Fleming said. "He has a knack for the end zone. He's slippery, and he's hard to tackle."
Hembree said Warren will have to find a way to contain Turner.
"He's really athletic," Hembree said. "He can beat you with his arm and with his feet. Nobody has been able to get him down to the ground."
Fleming said the Lumberjacks present a huge challenge for the Colts.
"It's a typical Warren team," Fleming said. "When you beat Arkadelphia and Nashville in back-to-back weeks, that's pretty good."
Rivercrest is making its first semifinal appearance as a Class 4A school. The Colts won the Class 3A state title in 2017, then moved up to Class 4A for the 2018 season.
Fleming, a longtime assistant at Rivercrest who took over the lead role in 2018, said the Colts are excited about their opportunity.
"It's great to play in December," Fleming said. "It's the first time in 4A that we're in the semifinals. I'm really pleased for our kids and community."
Hembree makes his return to Mississippi County on Friday. He's a 1991 graduate of Osceola, which is 11 miles from Wilson.
The coach mentioned the rivalry Osceola and Rivercrest have had over the years, but he's focused on the Lumberjacks as they attempt to reach their eighth state championship game since 2000.
"It's about our kids more than it is me going home," said Hembree, who has won four state titles at Warren (2001, 2002, 2014, 2016).
At a glance
WARREN AT RIVERCREST
WHAT Class 4A semifinals
WHEN 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE Cortez Kennedy Stadium, Wilson
RECORDS Warren 8-4; Rivercrest 12-0
COACHES Warren: Bo Hembree; Rivercrest: Johnny Fleming