Coming off a 1-10 season, things may seem dreary for the Warren County High School football team.
Not so fast, says head coach Tom Moore, who has just finished his first year at the Pioneer helm.
“I really liked the way we finished the season,” said Moore. “These guy didn’t mail it in. They went out and they played hard every game. I think our progress really showed in our last six quarters of the season. In the second half against Blackman, our guys played well. Sure you can say Blackman had taken out some of its starters at that point, but the guys they had out there were still trying to score and we played well against them.
“I was also impressed with our playoff performance against Maryville. There again, you can say Maryville overlooked us and didn’t give us their best shot, but that can’t take away from the way we played. You had to be there to see it to appreciate the way our guys went out there and competed.”
Coach Moore admitted the season didn’t start the way he hoped with a 23-14 loss to DeKalb County at Nunley Stadium. The game was marred by sloppy play as the Pioneers committed four turnovers and had a number of other fumbles they were able to recover after lost yardage.
Game 2 in Lebanon wasn’t much better as the Pioneers suffered a 28-13 loss to a team that had been winless the year before.
“The first two games were disappointing because we were not very good at that point,” said Moore. “If we were to play those two teams later in the season, I think it would have been a different story.”
Even though Warren County will continue to play in a tough region next year, coach Moore believes the outcomes will be much better. He says he’s encouraged by a team filled with players he truly believes want to improve and he believes experience will be a key factor in achieving that improvement.
“It’s tough to head into the season with a quarterback who hasn’t taken a varsity snap,” said Moore of QB Isaiah Grayson who started every game as a sophomore. “So having Isaiah back after a full year will be a big help. We also have some good linemen coming back in Justin Holt, Alex Onate, and Ethan Stuart. And there’s Mitchell Stembridge who is solid at tight end.”
Coach Moore said he’s not ruling out making some changes during the offseason as he tries to put the Pioneers in the best position to win. He says he has traditionally run a pro-style offense with two outside receivers, but he’s not convinced that’s the offense best suited for Warren County.
“We’re going to make changes to fit our personnel,” said Moore. “We don’t necessarily have the team speed to run the offense we had this year. We want to create an aura of confidence and get the kids feeling like they’re in a good position to win so we may look at doing some things differently.”
The highlight of the season was undoubtedly the win against Sequatchie County that came on homecoming night. The Pioneers played well and earned a 21-16 victory.
While coach Moore realizes there’s a need to enter every game believing you can win, he said the likelihood of the Pioneers going undefeated next year is slim. He said he would like to see the Pioneers be more competitive against the really good teams in the region like Blackman, Riverdale and Smyrna. He said improving from a one-win season to a five-win season is not out of the question.
“We’re going to continue to recruit the school and look for other guys who can come out and help us,” said Moore. “When you look at our region, you see how we need speed and we need athleticism. It shows how strong our region is when you look how well our teams have done in the playoffs.”