Midway through the second quarter Friday night, the Pioneers were facing a pivotal fourth down. Already down 21-0 against the Blackman Blaze, coach Tom Moore had to decide deep in his own territory if he wanted to roll the dice.
It seemed to be the opportune time to take a timeout, and that’s exactly what Moore did. Watching from just yards away, it was the moment when I realized the Pioneers have the right man in control of the football program.
First, let me say that in my absence from covering sports, I haven’t followed the football team closely. I read the stories, saw players’ names that I remember from when I was at the sports desk, and went back to my business. Only in the last two weeks, when I’ve been back covering, have I actively been engaged in Pioneer football.
In those two weeks, Warren County has lost by a combined score of 116-14 (Yes, the Simmons curse might be real). It seems like a weird time to praise coaching, but please allow me anyway.
It wasn’t recognizing that a timeout was needed that impressed me, though I’ve wondered before if some Warren County coaches could handle clock management. In this instance, Moore impressed with the way he handled the ensuing huddle.
His demeanor was relaxed. His words were precise. His guidance was strict, but not overbearing. His overall message was a simple one – everybody needed to calm down.
Looking back, it seems easy to think of this moment as a time to be chill. After all, no single play cost Warren County 62 points. Still, it was a message that all those around Pioneer football could heed.
Blowout losses are great times for finger pointing and people playing the blame game, both in the stands and on the sidelines. Coach Moore knew it in the moment, and wanted to make sure his team focused on the task at hand.
The Pioneers converted the fourth down. It was a small victory.
Warren County fumbled the next play. Blackman scored right after.
One step forward, two steps back.
Coach Moore seems to understand that growing the Pioneers into a consistent team means weathering the process and persisting through it. It’s not going to change overnight, especially when Warren County - still in search of its first winning season since 1990 - is suiting up against schools with state-title aspirations. It’s going to be a process that takes weeks, months, even years.
As the Pioneers move toward the goal, we all would be wise to listen to coach Moore’s advice. Just calm down.