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Pioneer football develops new way of working out in face of pandemic
Bryson Elrod.jpg
It will be the senior season for Bryson Elrod, who figures to play a key role offensively and defensively for the Pioneers.

The pads won’t be popping. 

In fact, players won’t even be touching when Warren County High School begins football practice this Monday, June 1.

“This is going to be an experiment,” said coach Matt Turner, who is entering his second season at the Pioneer helm. “Right now, we can’t even pass the football. We’re not like basketball where we can assign every kid their own ball and their own goal. Even if we hit the driving sled we have to wipe it off after each player.”

Conditioning and meeting together as a team will be two focal points as players return from months of inactivity since schools shut down in mid-March.

“If we want to look at the bright side, this has given kids the opportunity to do other things and not get burned out,” said Turner. “Everyone should be rested up. We had pretty good numbers in the weight room before everything was canceled, but I’m not sure what to expect from this first week of practice.”

Last year’s football team graduated 14 seniors. There are 34 returning varsity players who are expected to be joined by 25 to 30 players from the freshman team. Coach Turner said he’s heard promising talk about other athletes playing football this year and he hopes that turns out to be true. He said any Warren County student in grades 9-12 is welcome to show up for practice Monday.

Practice time is 4 to 6:30 p.m. with the drop-off point at the bus circle. Players who can drive are asked to park at least one space apart.

“Our No. 1 thing is getting back in shape,” said Turner. “We’re going to be doing competition-style workouts similar to what we did last year. We’re going to be dividing up players in groups of nine with a coach assigned to each group. We have nine coaches so we could have 81 players, but I don’t think we’ll get to that point.”

There’s been widespread speculation about what might happen to football season with COVID-19 still a concern. Spring sports were canceled just a few games into their season. So far there’s been no announcement about what might happen with football at any level, from NFL to high school.

Turner said the TSSAA hasn’t provided much guidance other than to say football is classified as a Level 3 sport with the highest level of risk. Sports like golf are Level 1.

The Pioneers are scheduled to kick off their season Aug. 21 against DeKalb County in Smithville.

Turner said he’s been asked about the possibility of playing games without fans in the stands. He said he doesn’t see how such a scenario is necessary.

“If we can play the game of football, I promise you that you can sit in the stands and watch it,” said Turner.

The TSSAA dead period where no sports-related activity is allowed is the last week of June and first week of July. Turner said he expects more guidance after the dead period, but he doesn’t think things will return full throttle.

“They’re not going to flip a switch after the dead period and say everything is good to go,” said Turner. “That’s not going to happen.”