It was a season nobody wanted to see end, but the WCMS Pioneers are done on the gridiron in 2022. Warren County fell one win short of the CTC championship game, falling 8-0 Tuesday to finish the year 3-4.
The Pioneers were hoping to get a rematch with Shelbyville in the title game, but their last-ditch effort on the road Tuesday came up short. Warren County moved the ball inside Tullahoma territory in the final two minutes, but a fierce Wildcat pass rush helped the home team take the coveted second spot in the CTC title tilt.
Following the game, coach Ben Matheney took time to take stock of what his team accomplished this fall. In his first three years at the helm, Warren County only won one game – the season finale in 2021. This year, it was a different vibe as more and more kids seem to want to put on the pads and play for the Pioneers.
“The fact we were able to match the number of wins for the last five years just this season is pretty nice,” said Matheney, who has put in major work trying to retool the program during his tenure. “The program took a big step forward and that had a lot to do with our eighth graders. I told them as they turned in their equipment that one game doesn’t define everything they did this season.”
With Lex Winfree rumbling, Kristopher Robledo passing and the dynamic duo of Peyton Ray and Dylan Aguilar flanking on the wing, the Pioneer offense had explosive moments this year. It was held down in the finale though, a lot due to a recent injury to Robledo that made throwing painful for the signal caller.
Robledo gutted out the last few weeks and connected with Ray on a long pass late in Tuesday’s loss, only to see Tullahoma send waves of defenders at him in the final minute. The Wildcats ultimately sealed the win with an interception as time expired.
“We didn’t quit and we had kids fighting to the end. We had some miscues throughout the matchup – penalties, putting the ball on the ground – that hurt. It’s still a process of learning how to get over the hump and keep growing,” said Matheney. “Our defense did about as much as it could. It’s disappointing about how it ended, but we’re going to take some momentum into next year.”
Matheney has already started challenging his youngsters, including some valuable contributors this fall who will get bigger roles next season, to seize the opportunity to keep pushing the program forward. It’s been a slow burn for years trying to stabilize the team, but the Pioneers seem to have something brewing and don’t want to take a step back now.
“I’ve challenged the seventh graders who were with the varsity group to continue what this team did as we go forward. We have got to learn to compete and finish and that will be an emphasis going into next year,” said Matheney.