The Pioneers lost 24-17 to Franklin County on Friday at Winchester in a game that was very frustrating for Warren County head coach Matt Turner.
The source of his frustration was the Pioneers' performance in the first half. Franklin County coaches think they should have scored 28 or more points in the first half instead of 17. Warren County gave up 288 yards of offense to Franklin County in the first half and turned the ball over twice with interceptions.
The second half was a completely different story. The Pioneers (1-6) held Franklin County to only a touchdown in the second half and 71 total yards of offense. If the game had been a blowout, the difference in the two halves may not have been significant, but the Pioneers were trailing by only seven points early in the third quarter.
Franklin County did not punt in the first half, and only had two drives end unsuccessfully with a turnover on downs. The Pioneers ended the half with a major stop at the 2-yard line with 35 seconds to go in the half. That defensive stop kept the score 17-3 and was a sign of things to come in the second half.
Franklin County kicked an onside kick to start the second half and recovered it on the 41-yard line. The Pioneer defense then forced Franklin County to punt on fourth down for the first time in the game.
Franklin County’s punt pinned Warren County back on its own 11-yard line for the Pioneers first possession of the second half. On their first play, quarterback Nate Elrod ran for 61 yards and put the Pioneers in great field position. Five plays later, Keldrick Cox ran in for a touchdown that tightened the score to 17-10 with 7:42 to go in the third.
Franklin County and Warren County battled without scoring for the rest of the third quarter. Trailing 17-10 early in the fourth, Warren County mishandled a punt return, and Franklin County took over on Warren County’s 15-yard line.
Warren County held the Rebels, and Franklin County attempted a field goal from its 8-yard line and missed it by kicking the ball into a mass of linemen. Unfortunately, Warren County did not get the ball on the 20-yard line, and took possession on the 8-yard line. According to the officials, it was treated the same as a blocked kick.
Warren County could not get a first down on the ensuing possession, and was forced to punt. Franklin County took possession on the 37-yard line and drove for a touchdown, going up 24-10 with 3:22 left. The Pioneers responded with a 60-yard drive that featured Nate Elrod running for 42 yards and passing for 18 yards.
Franklin County received the kickoff after Warren County scored, and went into the victory formation to end the game.
PIVOTAL POINTS IN THE GAME
Late, great Pioneer football coach Pedro Paz often said most football games come down to five plays. Warren County turned the ball over on two plays in the first half with two interceptions.
The second half started with Franklin County recovering an onside kick. Mishandling a punt early in the fourth quarter was the fourth play that hurt Warren County. On the positive side, Nate Elrod’s 61-yard run put the Pioneers right back in the game.
Those five plays sum up the game in many respects. The turnovers in the first half coupled with a porous defense that gave up massive yardage put the Pioneers in too deep of a hole. As Pioneer coach Matt Turner said after the game, “Warren County was its worst opponent in the first half.”
Both head coaches were frustrated with their team’s performances after the game. Franklin County head coach Justin Cunningham said, “We had a lot of mental errors. We kept ourselves from finishing drives. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot. I will tell you what, coach Turner did a great job with his scheme. Hats off to them for playing with great effort. They handed it to us. They out-numbered us. They did a great job of breaking the huddle and getting lined up. They caught us at times. We were not in position to make plays. We are lucky that they did not bust more of them for bigger plays.”
Turner was disappointed with how Warren County started the game. Turner said, “We haven’t put four quarters together yet. We made a lot of mistakes in the first half, we were not aggressive. Second half we were there. I have not found the key yet to get them to come off the bus ready to play. We are going to keep working. We have to make plays. Maintain blocks. They are learning. I know I am upset now, but it is never as bad as it seems or as good as it seems. I will never accept losing and the opportunity we missed tonight. I cannot get over the first half. We missed opportunities tonight. Squad53 is better than that. We have to play four quarters and go.”
The Pioneers did make adjustments this week. As coach Cunningham stated, the Pioneers moved quickly from the huddle to the line of scrimmage. There were no delay of game penalties against Warren County Friday night. There were some new players rotating into the game, which has been the norm for the season.
The second half showed what the Pioneers are capable of doing in a football game. The defense has given up a lot of points this season, and holding Franklin County’s first string offense to only 7 points in the second half was a major improvement.
Although he did not have big offensive numbers Friday night, Braylon Grayson was singled out after the game by a Franklin County coach.
Warren County native and former Pioneer player Steve Britton is an assistant coach at Franklin County. Britton told Grayson he played a great game.
Keldrick Cox stepped up and had a big night on offense for the Pioneers. Both the offensive and defensive lines improved tremendously in the second half. Although the Pioneers fell short on the scoreboard, they can find solace in not folding and giving up after a lopsided first half.
The Pioneers will have their final home game at Nunley Stadium against region opponent Lebanon, who is in first place in the region with a 3-0 region record. It will be Senior Night for the Pioneers.