It’s not a feeling the Pioneers get to experience a lot. Elation filled the sideline in Sparta when Eric Haywood went high for an interception in the final minutes, securing a 20-13 victory over the Warriors.
Once the team broke the victory formation and went through the postgame handshakes, players flocked to their families. A celebration ensued.
The Pioneers are going to enjoy this one.
“It feels great. Nothing is sweeter than a victory, especially when they’re hard to come by,” said coach Tom Moore, who pulled double duty as a play caller Friday night.
Friday’s jubilation was in stark contrast to the week before, when the Pioneers weren’t able to hold a lead late against the DeKalb County Tigers.
The formula wasn’t much different in Sparta, the lead just held up this time.
The Pioneers leaned heavily on CJ Taylor and Haywood again, hoping the talented tailbacks could carry the team to victory.
Taylor was the first-half hero, scoring on a 15-yard swing pass on the game’s first possession and adding a 68-yard punt return TD just 100 seconds later. The sophomore, who rushed for 150 yards in the opener, looked destined for another big night until he went down with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
Haywood more than picked up the slack, scoring the eventual game-winning touchdown and sealing the game with an interception.
Warren County has always been built around the individual talents of just a handful of players, but there’s plenty of unsung heroes as well.
Moore knows it too.
He was excited about the big catch and run Kain Haywood had in the second half. He praised Ethan Sanchez’s hustle on a big tackle late, one that helped stop a Warrior drive.
He talked all summer about how strong his offensive line would be this fall. All the big guys – Austin Jakes, Devin Jordan, Kaden Jordan, Dillon Haley and Noah Martin – have made Moore look like a prophet, paving the way for 550 yards on the ground in the first two weeks.
If there’s anything Moore would like, it’s just more players to praise on a young squad.
“We have lots of young players playing, and we need more,” said Moore after the game. “This young group has improved every week. From the first scrimmage until now, they’ve improved every time.”
The only thing holding back the celebration Friday night was that more players weren’t there to enjoy it. It’s something that was said before the year and the talk about numbers isn’t going away.
Fans were there to give love. The players were there rejoicing with the dedicated Pioneer faithful who made the trip. It’s pretty obvious that being a Pioneer football player is still very special to many people.
Hopefully more people attend the party next fall.