Preparing for the best team on the Pioneer schedule got even more difficult.
Warren County will face Oakland, the No. 2 team in the state, on Thursday after the teams agreed to move the game up one day to avoid potential bad weather forecasted for Friday.
The final home game will be the toughest test for the Pioneers, who stand at 2-7 after last week’s 53-0 loss at Riverdale. Oakland enters at 8-1 and has beaten Warren County by a combined score of 156-14 since the teams became region foes in 2015.
A shift in the schedule, and the tall task facing the Pioneers, has coach Tom Moore thinking as much about the big picture as he is about Thursday’s contest.
“Thursday is usually our walk through and where we work on the kicking game. We try to tie up loose ends, so this presents a few more challenges,” said Moore. “We’re treating this week like a mini spring practice. We’re focusing on fundamentals and doing basic things. We want to get everybody in the game.”
This is the second time in as many weeks the Pioneers have seen their game shifted to Thursday night. It’s also the second straight year Warren County will face Oakland on Thursday night. The Patriots defeated the Pioneers 56-7 on a short week last season.
Though senior night has already been celebrated, Thursday will be the official end to many careers. Coach Moore has already seen the nostalgia set in for his Pioneers, many who have been with the program since Moore was hired before the 2015 season.
“Some of the guys were already talking about how Monday was their final Monday practice. Some kids are more sentimental than others, but I think they all think about it. It weighs on them,” said Moore. “These kids have committed two, three or four years to the program. For many of them, this will be the last time they practice and last time they play.
“Whether you’re part of a championship program, or one that hasn’t won a lot, it still matters. We’d like to have a lot more wins, but we’ve had some big ones together. We care about these kids a lot.”
Beset by injuries most of the season, the Pioneers aren’t expected to add more depth this week. Injured players lost over the course of the year will likely miss Thursday’s game as well, though Moore plans on having a heavy rotation against the Patriots.
“We’ll go with who we have. We’re going to get everybody in the game,” said Moore.
Oakland has already clinched the region championship and a playoff berth. The Patriots have won seven straight games after losing 24-21 in Week 2 at Maryville.