The worst fumble of the Pioneer football season came three weeks after the final game.
A golden opportunity to shake up the status quo came and went last week, when Warren County made a last-second call to avoid requesting to play a non-region schedule at the TSSAA Board of Control meeting.
It may be the worst audible in program history.
Warren County was moved into the 6A division four years ago. Since moving into the region, the Pioneers are 1-25 and have lost by a combined score of 1,149 to 201. That’s an average loss of 44-8, which would mean Warren County is usually finishing games with the mercy rule enacted every time it suits up for a region game.
Region relief was available last week. White County, losers of 24 straight, requested and was granted the ability to play a non-region schedule for the next two years. It came shortly after being denied the ability to drop from 5A to 4A, a request the TSSAA was never going to take seriously.
The reasoning for the request? Getting a reprieve from its struggles.
“We have to try to build some momentum for our program that we just haven’t had,” White County principal Grant Swallows, also a Board of Control member, told the Tennessean. “When you look at the fact that we’re 8-42 over the past five years, our school is just a little too big."
Warren County is 12-40 over the last five years, but four of those wins came the year before the region move. The Pioneers are just 8-34 in the last four years.
Maybe the school officials thought the TSSAA would consider a drop into 5A, aligning Warren County into matchups with schools centered around Chattanooga. Bernard Childress, TSSAA executive director, shot that down when asked why the request was denied.
“The request was denied by the Board because their enrollment puts them in 6A,” Childress said in an email. “There is no way the Board could allow a 6A school to move down a class. If so, they would be playing against schools that are much smaller.”
This has been the company line from the TSSAA since the formation of the current alignment. For better or worse, they’re only going to classify by enrollment.
Warren County had to know that going in, and yet balked at making a second request. Now they’ll be in a region which is rumored to be adding Rockvale, the newest Rutherford County school. Half of the Pioneer schedule is now Rutherford County opponents.
Warren County had a chance to ask for mercy. They chose the mercy rule instead.