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Pioneers earn all-region honors
All Region Eli Cantrell Pregame 9-17.jpg
Eli Cantrell

Pioneer head coach Matt Turner announced the Pioneer football players who were named All-Region on Monday. All-Region players are traditionally announced after every team in the region has ended their season. Region 3 member Lebanon ended its season Friday in a playoff loss to Oakland.

The future looks bright for the Pioneers based on the All-Region announcement. Seven Pioneer were named to the First Team and two Pioneers were named to the Second Team. Of the nine players named, six of those players will return next year. The most acclaimed Pioneer was Braylon Grayson who was named MVP Linebacker of Region 3-6A.



Coach Turner discussed the All-Region players. He stated, “I’m very excited for all the young men. Extremely honored for Braylon to be recognized as the best linebacker in our region. His award was well deserved. I’m very hopeful for next season, and it should be a good one with all the returning All-Region players, especially knowing Dayton Jernigan would have been one of them this year if injury hadn’t sidelined him.”


Every coach who faced the Pioneers said that he was very aware of Braylon Grayson. The coaches in Region 3 voted Grayson the MVP Linebacker. 

Pioneer defensive coordinator Camron Bond said, “I’m really proud for Braylon. He wasn’t just given that award. He earned it night in and night out. He’s the leader of our defense. There’s not many times that you see a tackle being made and Braylon isn’t around. He plays the game the right way. His motor never stops. He’s a great teammate, and a better young man. Proud to be his coach.”


Eli Cantrell played tailback, linebacker and defensive end during the season. Cantrell was a major contributor as a running back in the game against Cookeville. Many of the players on the team moved from one position to another when there were injuries and illness that kept players out of games. Cantrell moved from linebacker to defensive end to help fill a hole, and he was often the Pioneers tailback who was relied on for short yardage plays for first downs. 


Keldric Cox was a major contributor as a wingback who also returned kickoffs and punts on occasion. Cox’s primary role was on defense at cornerback. Cox was someone Pioneer coaches put at various positions, and he played selflessly for his teammates. His coaches do not remember Cox missing a defensive snap all season.


One of the Pioneers biggest playmakers on both sides of the ball was Nate Elrod. He made big plays in the Cookeville game that helped secure the Pioneers victory. During the season, Elrod was often making big plays that helped stop opponent’s drives. Elrod is a gifted athlete who could throw the ball 40 yards for a touchdown, bust a run for 60 yards, and make fearless tackles on defense. 


Coach Matt Turner has said Donathan Lewis may be the best athlete pound for pound on the team, and if Lewis had more size, he would be a player everyone would be talking about. An example of Lewis’ explosiveness was a kickoff he returned for a 91-yard touchdown against Shelbyville. 

Lewis has a nose for the football on defense, which he showed in making some exceptional interceptions this past season. Lewis is projected to be a big playmaker for the Pioneers in the future.


Collin Panter is a player who caught coaches’ eyes in practice, and he won more praise when he played in games. Panter ended the season as the Pioneer center and a starter at defensive end. 

In 2020, Panter was sidelined with an ACL injury, and he played his first year of varsity football this year on a surgically repaired knee. Panter was moved from one or two positions on the offensive line, and has probably found a home as the Pioneer center for next year.


Alex van Vuuren played his first year of organized football, and started on defense. He also was the backup quarterback to Nate Elrod. Van Vuuren was moved to various positions on offense, and caught a touchdown pass as a receiver. He also played the second half against Oakland at quarterback and Nate Elrod moved to receiver. 

One thing is certain, the coaches believe van Vuuren has superior athletic ability, and he will be starting somewhere on offense next season.

Two Pioneers were named to the region second team. 


Ojani Hernandez was a player coaches counted on to make a difference on both the offensive and defensive lines. COVID-19 knocked Hernandez out of a game and slowed him down for another game or two this past season. Hernandez was a tough player who was a big force when he was blocking and making tackles.


Kaden Rutledge played his first year of high school football after being solely committed to basketball. Rutledge was a player coaches praised for his athletic ability. A year of football experience will help Rutledge play a bigger role for the Pioneers next season.