It had been 191 days since the Warren County High School football team had been on the field. Waiting one more day probably won’t hurt.
The much-anticipated spring practice for the Pioneers was delayed Monday as rain left the practice field under water. Warren County coach Tommy Johnson decided to keep his players indoors for team meetings and weight lifting as he feels a day to dry off will keep the team on the field the rest of two-week spring session.
“We decided to hold off on taking the field Monday because if we go and tear it up, we would’ve lost Tuesday,” said Johnson. “The guys are eager to get out there and get to work though.”
The Pioneers have been ready to get back on the field ever since ending the 2012 season with a 55-35 victory over Soddy Daisy. Ending the season with a win was a step forward for Warren County, but coach Johnson and his team has expectations of extending the 2013 season past the regular season.
With the playoffs serving as a goal for the Pioneers, coach Johnson and his team want to get in as much work as possible during the 10-day spring period. Warren County will have practices each day this week and next week before culminating spring practice with a full-scale scrimmage next Friday against Watertown.
Spring practice will be a chance for the Pioneers to begin learning some new system changes as Warren County will break in several new coaches this fall.
Both coordinators from last year’s team are gone as defensive coordinator Chris Johnson and offensive coordinator Pedro Holiday left to take positions at Marshall County. Coach Johnson is currently serving as the team’s defensive coordinator and is still in search of an offensive coordinator.
Holdovers from last year’s staff include lineman coach Greg Cotten and linebacker coach Paul Martin. Both will be entering their second seasons under coach Johnson while three other coaches will begin their first years on the Warren County staff.
Former Warren County Middle School coach Adam Wood, who stepped down after one season with the Pioneers, has moved up to help the WCHS football team. Wood brings with him Isaac Slatton, who has coached at WCMS under Wood and Cotten. Kyle Cannon also joins coach Johnson’s staff.
With several fresh faces on the coaching staff, along with some offensive and defensive philosophies changing, coach Johnson foresees his team working on the basics during spring practice.
“We’re going to be very basic,” said Johnson. “We want the guys to learn and understand what we’re going to be doing in the fall.”
While the Pioneers didn’t get the jolt from being outside the first day, a surprise visit from an alumni seemed to energize the team. Former Pioneer and current Duke University offensive lineman Cody Robinson showed up for the first day of practice and watched as the team went through workouts in the weight room.
Robinson played one season under coach Johnson, a year when the Pioneers finished 3-7. Warren County had the same record last year as the team finished one win away from a playoff berth.
Making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 will be more difficult this season as District 6-AAA adds more challenges. Two new teams enter the fold this year, while Warren County’s longtime rival Coffee County departs.
Rhea County and Stone Memorial each bring in teams who had their share of struggles last season. Both teams finished the regular season 2-8, though Stone Memorial advanced to the AA playoffs where it lost 47-30 to Oliver Springs.
After a season of struggles for Rhea County, the program made a big splash in the offseason by hiring Mark Pemberton as its new coach. Pemberton sports a career record of 163-69 and won a state championship in 2008 at Knoxville Catholic.
After the 191-day layoff ended Monday, the Pioneers began a new countdown. It is now 107 days until Warren County begins the 2013 season Friday, August 23 at home against DeKalb County.