It was about this time in 1995 when I was first introduced to the Southern Standard sports desk. I’d barely gotten my seat warm when Franklin Fisher decided to hang up his whistle and WCHS was looking for a football coach.
That’s when the streak of losing football seasons at WCHS was still a spry four years old.
The coaching search netted Sid Fritts, a bald, fiery guy who would kick tackling dummies when he was mad. Nearly 25 years later, I’d say Fritts is the best football coach I’ve covered at Warren County. He molded a soft team into a group of pitbulls, going 3-7 his second year, which was his last in McMinnville.
Had Fritts stayed, I believe the Pioneers would have snapped the losing streak in his third season before it even turned seven. Instead, Fritts left and Glen Campbell brought the run-and-shoot offense to town in 1997.
For those who may have forgotten, the run and shoot at the high school level looks exactly like you’d expect – poor throws, dropped passes, and plenty of QB sacks. Still the Pioneers managed to go 4-6.
When Campbell left, the streak of losing seasons was at nine. Since then, I’ve covered six other head coaches as they roam the Warren County sideline. Now, in the midst of another coaching search, the streak of losing seasons stands at more than a generation, 28 years.
During that span, there have been two legitimate chances to snap the streak.
Chris Madewell, a talented coach in his own right, had a great opportunity in 2005 when the Pioneers were 5-4 entering their last regular-season game against a woeful 1-8 team from Coffee County. The Pioneers inexplicably lost to finish the regular season 5-5, then lost in the first round of the playoffs for a 5-6 overall record.
In 2014, Scott Smith was literally two plays away from finishing 6-4, but a blocked FG at the end of regulation against Stone Memorial, and a 2-point conversion that was 1-yard short in OT against Coffee County, left Warren County 4-6.
Looking ahead at the football schedule, which is set in two-year increments, there are winnable games this year and in 2020. Just not enough to break .500.
Warren County is 1-23 in region competition since being lumped in with the Murfreesboro powerhouses four years ago. The Pioneers have been outscored 1,033-181 in those games. That translates to an average loss of 43-8.
So we’re looking at 2021 as the first realistic window for Pioneer football to win more games than it loses. That’s the earliest we can hope for a TSSAA scheduling change to escape playing the dreaded Murfreesboro schools.
If we can find the right coach, who’s willing to weather a two-year storm, Pioneer fans can begin to get excited. Mark your calendars because 2021, when the streak starts to show its age and turns 30, could be the year for Warren County’s football turnaround.