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Long journey awaits Pioneers
Warren County will be looking to blow open holes for senior Braylon Grayson and the Pioneer backs Friday in Memphis. Grayson is 11 yards away from the 1,000-yard mark in his career. - photo by Taylor Moore

The term "road warriors" takes on a brand-new meaning for the Pioneers this week as they’re preparing for their longest trek in nearly 40 years. Warren County, still searching for its first win in 2022, will be heading west to face the Ridgeway Roadrunners. It will be the first time the Pioneers have played in, or around, Memphis since facing Germantown in 1984.

It’s a journey that was delayed last year by a COVID shutdown in the Pioneer program, but this year the team is locked, loaded and ready to make a long journey in hopes of breaking a nine-game losing streak (dating back to last season).

“We knew when we agreed to this series before the 2021 school year that it was going to be a test of our program,” said Pioneer coach Matt Turner. “For where we’re at as a team right now, it could be a huge turning point. It’s as much of a bonding experience as a business trip – we can grow a lot because we’re going to be together non-stop for two days.

“One thing is for sure though – that trip home will be a whole lot easier and more fun if we can find a way to win.”

The Pioneers are heading to Memphis after two weeks of soul-crushing losses in border battles against perennial rivals. Warren County started the year with a heartbreaking loss to DeKalb County 35-34, sunk in the last 1:04 by a Tiger two-point conversion. 

Like a bad dream, the Pioneers had to relive the feeling last Friday when White County took home a 22-21 victory on a 2-point conversion with 28.5 seconds to play.

Scars from the two losses, both of which came after the Pioneers held fourth-quarter leads, were still fresh when the Pioneers hit the practice field this week. Coach Turner is hopeful his team can regroup mentally and physically for what can still be a hugely successful year for Squad 54.

“Nothing has changed as far as our preseason goals. We want to be in the playoffs and it would be amazing to get back that fifth home game for us in November. To do that, we have to win region games – and we haven’t even played one of those yet,” said Turner. “This week is about correcting the things which have plagued us in our two close losses, finding who can continue to help us going forward and taking on the challenge that their athletic team will present.”

The Roadrunners will also be entering Friday’s tilt at 0-2. Ridgeway has been thumped in its first two contests, falling to Houston 48-7 in its season opener before Whitehaven blasted the Roadrunners 46-0 last week. The results mean little to the Pioneers, who know that losing by one feels just as bad as losing in a blowout.

“I think you can toss the results out the window for them. They’re a good, athletic group who are going to pose some problems. We’ll have to play disciplined and do our jobs every snap,” said Turner.

Warren County is hoping to get some contributors back for Friday’s game, though it’s still unclear who can play. It’s unlikely center and defensive lineman Collin Panter will suit up against the Roadrunners after going down against Sparta with a knee injury, but the Pioneers are still holding out hope senior LB Andrew Miller can return from a one-week absence after getting injured against the Tigers in Week 1.

Safety Creed Adams, dealing with a pinky injury, didn’t suit up last week and could miss this week’s game as well. The Pioneers had some major contributors step up defensively in a pinch, including Dominque Padin playing a huge amount of snaps at linebacker after moving to the position last Wednesday.

Kickoff Friday is set for 7 p.m. The game will be played at Halle Stadium in Memphis.