Matt Turner never wavered from his message this summer when he took his team to Nunley Stadium for workouts. He wanted the Pioneers to feel at home under the bright lights.
His plan has paid off thus far, with both of Warren County’s wins this season coming at home. Winning a third in a row would require the team pulling off one of the biggest upsets in program history.
Warren County will face the Blackman Blaze Friday night at Nunley Stadium. The Blaze are just 1-3, but have beaten the Pioneers 188-38 in their four meetings since 2015.
Protecting home field will never be more difficult, but Turner – who has preached to his team the importance on not looking back – isn’t ready to back down.
“I told the guys Monday if they don’t think we can win, then don’t come out to practice,” said Turner. “We want to go out there and give them our best effort.”
Blackman won last year at Nunley Stadium 42-3, part of a 10-2 season where the team was put out in the second round of the playoffs. The Blaze have already suffered more losses in one month than all of last season, but not for a lack of talent.
Blackman fell 23-14 to Alcoa, last year’s 3A champions, in its first game. The Blaze also lost to Ravenwood and Independence, both of which made it past the first round in last year’s 6A playoff bracket.
In their lone Region 3 game, Blackman throttled Coffee County 55-0. Warren County also enters Friday’s matchup unbeaten in region play, courtesy of its 36-35 victory over Rockvale.
Warren County has used this week to continue to tweak things in hopes of not beating itself against the Blaze. In its two losses, Warren County could only point the finger at itself – either for the 18 penalties in Cannon County or the three turnovers and multiple special teams mistakes in last week’s 28-21 loss at Lawrence County.
“We’re going to continue to control the things we can control,” said Turner. “We have to stop beating ourselves first. We did better with penalties last week, but we have to hang on to the football.”
Going into Friday’s game, the Pioneers are led offensively by quarterback CJ Taylor. The junior has rushed for 358 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in four games while passing for 145 yards.
Senior Jay Rozier has scored rushing touchdowns in each of the team’s last two games, while Xander Lee has eclipsed 50 yards on the ground the last two weeks.
Defensively, senior linebacker Noah Martin has been a tackling machine. Martin has a team-high 48 tackles through four games, including 20 solo stops. Lacedrick ‘Red’ Cox and Eli Buchanan are among the state leaders with three interceptions each.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.