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Pioneers pitch shutout in Memphis, get first victory
Nate Elrod

If coach Matt Turner knew his team was going to get shutout wins 250 miles away from home, he'd schedule long road trips every week. The Pioneers picked up their first win Friday, making it way all the way across to the state to beat Ridgeway 26-0. Warren County snapped a nine-game losing streak in the process, dating back to its road win at Cookeville last September.

Warren County got a slew of big performances in the victory. QB Nate Elrod threw two touchdowns and ran for another, Alex van Vuuren got in the endzone twice on receptions and added an interception and Braylon Grayson led all rushers with 90 yards, including a 50-yard TD. Grayson topped 1,000 yards rushing in his career on the 50-yard scamper to start the scoring in the first quarters.

The Pioneers led wire-to-wire, including going up 13-0 by halftime as Elrod added a 56-yard TD run late in the first quarter. Elrod and van Vuuren teamed up for both the second-half scores, with van Vuuren boxing out a defender in the endzone on a 19-yard TD catch in the third quarter. The final TD came when van Vuuren got behind the defense for a 43-yard long ball in the fourth.

Warren County's defense picked up its first shutout in nearly two years, holding Ridgeway to just 8-of-23 passing and shutting down the Roadrunners' three tries on fourth down. Freshman Isaiah Robledo preserved the shutout in the final two minutes, going up high in the endzone for his first career pick on a jumpball. 

Notable Stats: Elrod finished 5-for-8 passing for 108 yards. Dawson Haley showed off his versatility 37 yards rushing and 29 yards receiving. Jax Patterson did the most with his late opportunities, rushing for 73 yards (including a 59-yarder in the final two minutes).

Up next: The Pioneers will finish a four-game road trip to start the year when the group travels to Mt. Juliet. The Golden Bears are 1-1,, having lost to Gallatin 27-18 on opening night and winning 42-0 over Hunter's Lane Friday night. Mt. Juliet had a bye in Week 2. 

Why Memphis? Fans have been asking all week why Warren County had to make a trip to Memphis. It's a deal that was set up before the 2021 season, coming about just after the Pioneers had a shift in region play. Going into a five-team region, Warren County drew the short end of the stick at the inaugural meeting when the groups were deciding who wouldn't have a region game in Week 3 (traditionally when teams all across the state are starting region games). The Pioneers were left searching for an opponent that didn't already have a region game and were ultimately left with two options: schedule a home-and-home with the Roadrunners or match up with a group out of Bowling Green, Ky. Coach Turner opted to stay instate and agreed to a two-year contract with Ridgeway.

When the Pioneers weren't able to make the trip to Memphis last year due to a COVID shutdown, TSSAA contract rules kicked into gear. The rule states that if the visiting team has to cancel in the first year of the two-year contract, they have to make the trip in the second season. Therefore, the Pioneers had to travel to Memphis, while the Roadrunners - originally slated to be at Nunley Stadium Friday - won't come to Warren County. 

The Pioneers will rotate into a Week 3 region game next year, leaving little chance the groups will continue playing each other in the future.