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Pioneers look to build on last season's success
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Senior receiver Tavion Miller and junior defensive back Kaden Rutledge try catch the ball thrown by makeshift QB Matt Turner during the first day of summer practice Tuesday. - photo by Brad Durham
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Head coach Matt Turner appears to be having fun filling in as a quarterback in practice Tuesday. - photo by Brad Durham

The first day of practice for the 2021 football team, Squad#53, commenced on Tuesday. Head coach Matt Turner has scheduled practice and conditioning from 4 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday during June. 

There will be three 7-on-7 competitions. The first competition takes place at Warren County High School against Tullahoma on June 15. This will also include a separate competition for linemen. The Pioneers will travel to Ravenwood on Saturday, June 19 and Shelbyville on Wednesday, June 23 for the other 7-on-7 competitions.

Coach Turner stepped in as the quarterback in drills Tuesday because the two high school quarterbacks were at camps. Turner, a former lineman, was throwing a pretty spiral and kept a football in each hand during drills. Turner appears to be the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for the 2021 Pioneer football team.

Coach Donnie Harris had defensive linemen inside The Facility for drills, and he was asked about his views on the first day of practice. 

Harris commented on the intrasquad scrimmage that took place May 22 that ended spring practice. Harris said, “I think the intrasquad game was good because we had guys working exclusively on offense and defense. I believe that made a big difference.” 

The difference Harris alluded to was the learning curve of knowing position responsibilities and schemes. Harris believes having players focus on one side of the ball in spring practice accelerated learning key things for the new team.

Turner said, “I think it was a good first day of practice. We had 20 freshmen. I am impressed with what they know to do. Ben Matheney has done a good job at the middle school. There is one freshman who looks good. He looks like he has that QB swagger.”

Coach Alan Perkins was asked about his impression of the first day of practice. Perkins said, “I think we need to get into shape.”

There were approximately 60 players at practice Tuesday. Coaches are excited to see the team come together. Coach Turner believes the team will be fun to watch when some of the players are playing both ways. 

The intrasquad scrimmage in May looked a little rough in some respects, and coach Matt Turner expects the team to have crisper execution when some key players such as Braylon Grayson and Dayton Jernigan are playing on both offense and defense.

The summer is no time to rest and take it easy. All signs at the Pioneers first practice in June indicate the team is dedicated to working hard. The final practice of June before the TSSAA’s mandatory Dead Period is on the Pioneer practice schedule as “DAWN of the DEAD,” a 5:30 a.m. practice on Friday, June 25, at Nunley Stadium.