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Eyes on the Tigers
Pioneers focus on season opener in DeKalb County
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Pioneer senior Braylon Grayson hopes to signal many first downs for the Pioneers on Friday night in Smithville.
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Matt Turner is 2-1 in three games against DeKalb County as WCHS head coach.

WCHS will be looking to exact revenge against perhaps its most fierce football rival when the Pioneers make the trip to Smithville to open their season against DeKalb County on Friday.

The Pioneers boast a wealth of experience on both sides of the ball – including 22 seniors – leading to hope of a promising 2022 campaign.

It all starts with the traditional opener against DeKalb County, a rivalry which has become an annual slugfest.

“When you combine the border battle with it being our first game of the season, it has created a huge rivalry,” said WCHS coach Matt Turner. “There are a lot of bragging rights involved. I think if we played Coffee County every year for the first game of the season we’d have that type of rivalry with them. The season-opener is something you work toward all summer and to always play Smithville makes it that much bigger. I think it threw us off a little bit last year when COVID hit and we didn’t play them until later in the season.”

DeKalb County shut out the Pioneers 28-0 in last year’s matchup at Nunley Stadium that was pushed back to Oct. 8 due to COVID.

Warren County holds a 9-8 edge in the series which began in 2005. The Pioneers won the first three games and five of the first six, but DeKalb County has been gaining ground in recent years, although the Tigers have never led in the series.

The Pioneers have most of their starters returning from last year’s team, including starting QB Nate Elrod and starting RB Braylon Grayson. Warren County’s offense thrives on creating indecision by the defense with misdirection that can produce big plays.

DeKalb County has established itself as a top-shelf program under coach Steve Trapp, who guided the Tigers to two playoff wins last year. The DeKalb County offense is led by powerful RB Colby Barnes, who gouged the Pioneer defense for 128 yards last year.

“Coach Trapp has created a culture of expectations and a hard-nosed football team,” said Turner. “Their tailback is a bruiser and they do a lot of power running. If he gets going north and south he is hard to take down. We have to be in position in the secondary to make plays.”

Tiger QB Briz Trapp is a lefty who can make things happen. He completed five passes against the Pioneers last year in his first year of starting as a sophomore.

“I don’t know where coach Trapp finds all these kids who can throw and all these receivers who can catch,” said Turner.

DeKalb County has 11 seniors listed on its roster and expectations are high for a strong season in Smithville. Likewise, coach Turner has been impressed with the work ethic of his players and is 2-1 in his three games against the Tigers.

“They are going to make some plays and we’re going to make some plays too,” said Turner. “We want to be in position to win in the fourth quarter and see what happens.”