The final remnants of a rainy night at Riverdale showed as Matt Turner wiped water from his face, pausing before speaking. Taking off his rain-soaked hat, he ran his hand over his head and sighed. The Pioneers were going through the post-game handshake line after their worst loss – falling 42-0 to the Warriors – and their coach was wondering what to say.
Regardless of the Riverdale result or what is waiting against Oakland Friday, Warren County has taken a huge step forward on the football field this season. It can’t be understated how much the Pioneers have improved their abilities on the field and the overall health of the program.
At this time last year, there were strong whispers around the program about just how much longer it could survive. Players were actively fleeing from the field, leaving Warren County to challenge 100-man rosters from Rutherford County with 20-25 players.
Just a year later, the Pioneers own two wins over Murfreesboro schools, Siegel and Rockvale, and will finish with their most wins since 2014, assuming Warren County doesn’t pull off the biggest upset in the history of its program this Friday.
The pride the Pioneers have shown, and what has done to galvanize the community behind them at Nunley Stadium, is a 180-degree turn from a year ago. When Warren County was limping to a 2-8 finish last year, apathy was setting in. Fans who still cared knew something had to change.
Sadly, the Warren County administration didn’t.
By all accounts, Tom Moore would’ve been back as head coach this year if he hadn’t accepted another job last spring. It wasn’t Moore’s fault the Pioneers were unable to compete in the current region, but participation was dwindling under his watch. The best athletes in the school weren’t coming out for him.
Then, in a move that is still hard to explain, Warren County bailed in the last minute on a plan to adopt a non-region schedule at a TSSAA meeting. The powers that be didn’t want to send a message that this community gives up when the going gets hard. Perhaps they forgot to ask the people who were sacrificing their bodies for their opinion.
That decision is still haunting the Pioneers, but at least was followed by an excellent decision to hire Turner.
There will probably be more nights where Turner is left to ponder how to pull the Pioneers off their current path, where the time that lapses between being asked a question and his response serves as a metaphor for how far Warren County is still behind the elite Murfreesboro schools on the football field.
His pauses can be long. They’re always full of frustration.
The road back to glory will be too. At least there’s a good driver behind the wheel.