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Pioneers humbled on homecoming
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Photos courtesy of Painted Barn Media Braylon Grayson and the Pioneers were swarmed by Coffee County Friday, falling 34-17 on senior night. Warren County wore black jerseys for the first time since 2010, but they made little difference as the Red Raiders left with a big region win.

The Pioneers threw the kitchen sink at Coffee County Friday night, but the Red Raiders simply used it to rinse and repeat their success in the border battle. Warren County fell to its Region 3-6A rival 34-17 on homecoming, suffering a big blow to its playoff hopes and losing bragging rights to their rivals for the second straight year.

Nothing seemed to faze the Red Raiders Friday. A huge crowd at Nunley Stadium came in ready to roar, but was largely silenced and sent to the exits midway through the second half. Even a new quarterback and new jerseys didn’t fire up the Pioneers as they dropped to 1-6 overall this year and 0-2 in region play.

Coach Matt Turner had high hopes the energy and passion from the day could help jumpstart his group after so many close losses this year, but instead it seemed to leave the team drained shortly after kickoff.

“I don’t know if it was too much excitement, too big of a day or what it was, but the mood by halftime was kind of flat and strange,” said Turner. “It’s tough with a young group trying to learn how to win and compete. We were right there at halftime."

He continued, “I don’t know if it’s the wear-and-tear of the season or the close losses, but it’s a tough job and we’ll go back to work.”

Coffee County (5-2) led 14-3 at the break, using touchdown runs from QB Cole Pippenger and senior back Konor Heaton to answer the first Pioneer drive. Heaton would go on to finish with three scores (and a game-high 105 rushing yards), while Pippenger scored twice while racking up 163 total yards.

Warren County actually grabbed the lead early, scoring on its first drive as new QB Alex van Vuuren got the offense rolling. Van Vuuren, who has finished the last three games commanding the offense, sparked the team by throwing a 44-yard bomb to Nate Elrod early. The former starting QB made a great adjustment, leaping over a defender just past midfield and making a juggling grab while going down to keep the Pioneers marching.

Another quick connection for 14 yards from van Vuuren to Elrod had the Pioneers in the red zone, then Jaythan Pleasant ripped off a 10-yard run to get his squad to the Coffee County 4. In a goal-to-go situation, Warren County was dropped for a two-yard loss, stuffed for one yard and held at the line of scrimmage to force a decision.

At the Red Raider 5, coach Turner elected to send in senior Beckham Scott – the eventual homecoming king – for a short field goal. Scott connected from 22 yards out, giving the Pioneers an early 3-0 advantage.

The rest of the night belonged to the Red Raiders. After seizing control with back-to-back TDs in the first half, Coffee County hit another level in the third quarter.

The Red Raiders scored twice in the first 5:28, sandwiching two rushing TDs around a fumble by Pleasant at the Pioneer 17. 

Down 27-3, van Vuuren tried to lead a charge back, but instead suffered a scary injury late in the third. The Pioneer QB, shortly after connecting on a 28-yard pass where the ball was tipped by one defender only to see Elrod swoop in and grab it, was hit hard on a scramble and fumbled near midfield. As Coffee County recovered, van Vuuren stayed down on the field as players quickly motioned for trainers.

He was down for several minutes and ultimately was taken off by a stretcher. More on van Vuuren’s injury and recovery can be found on 3B. 

The somber scene at Nunley Stadium was followed by another Coffee County score, enacting the mercy rule late in the third quarter.

Warren County was able to punch in a pair of TDs late, with Elrod scoring on a sneak and throwing a 28-yard TD pass on fourth down to Braylon Grayson in the final minute, but it wasn’t nearly enough. It did, however, give coach Turner some faith his team wasn’t ready to roll over despite losing its fourth game in a row, including the last three at home.

“Braylon, Nate and Dayton (Jernigan) – those seniors – they’re going to fight. I have to get the rest of the squad there. It feels like sometimes, because those guys have been playmakers so long, that everybody else is still waiting around for them to make something happen,” said Turner. “We have to get everybody to the point where they’re ready to put themselves out there and fight for it. It’s why football is the ultimate game – it’s the game of life. We got hit in the mouth and we have to respond.”

Warren County will get extended rest time before it suits up for another pivotal region game on Friday, Oct. 14. The Pioneers will have a bye week coming up before heading to Shelbyville in what will likely be an elimination game for the playoffs. 

Warren County will be back at home to play its final home game Thursday, Oct. 20 against Franklin County.