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Pioneers prepped for homecoming
Photo courtesy of Painted Barn Media The Pioneers will need a big game from senior defensive lineman Dayton Jernigan as the team battles Coffee County on homecoming. Kickoff at Nunley Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

Parades and floats have the community buzzing for homecoming, but the Pioneers are only concerned with one thing. Warren County has its full attention on Coffee County, knowing any celebrating Friday at Nunley Stadium will be dampened if it can’t come up with a big victory.

The Pioneers and Red Raiders will be meeting for the 48th time Friday and neither school has gained much of an edge over the last five decades. Warren County had tied the series with back-to-back wins under coach Matt Turner in 2019 and 2020, but Coffee County currently holds the edge 24-23 after prevailing 33-14 in last year’s matchup.

Turner doesn’t expect there to be much difference between the teams when they clash at Nunley Stadium either.

“We’re two schools separated by a just a few miles and we’re all working with the same athletes and toward the same goals. It’s probably not going to be much different than any of our other border battles this year – it’ll be close to the very end,” said Turner. 

Warren County (1-5) has been no stranger to heartbreak this year, including turning it over four times last week in a 21-18 loss to Siegel. One of those turnovers, an early fumble after the Pioneers opened the game with an impressive drive, was returned for a touchdown and it proved to be the difference as the Stars left Nunley Stadium with a victory.

Added on to a 21-14 loss to Cookeville (where the Pioneers had the ball at the Cavs 22 with five minutes to play but failed to score) and one-point losses to DeKalb County and Sparta to start the year, Warren County comes into Friday’s matchup having lost four games by 12 combined points.

It’s further resolved Turner to preach the finer points in practice this week.

“We said it after the game Friday and we’ve repeated this week – we have to do the little things right every day and it starts with how we practice. It can be tough with homecoming and all the fanfare that comes with it, but I think the guys have been focused and want to get some redemption after another close one last week,” said Turner.

A win Friday would go a long way to securing a playoff bid for the Pioneers, something the group has been able to do the last two seasons. It was would also open the door to the team rising quickly in the Region 3-6A standings, currently topped by the Red Raiders.

Coffee County has already beaten Lebanon and Shelbyville, giving the Red Raiders the inside track to hosting a playoff game this fall. If the Red Raiders were to win at Nunley Friday, it would clinch a top-two spot in the standings, but they’ll have to do it without their coach.

Doug Greene will miss his second straight game as he was put on temporarily leave from the program Sept. 20. It’s likely Greene will resume his duties as coach for the Red Raiders in October, but he will be absent from the sidelines Friday. In his stead, defensive coordinator Roger Haynes has served as interim coach, according to reporting by Thunder Radio.

No matter who is leading the Red Raiders, they’ll have plenty of playmakers at their disposal. Coffee County is led by dual-threat QB Cole Pippenger, a standout baseball player who committed to Mississippi State as a freshman but has proven to be a gamer on the gridiron too.

Pippenger has thrown for 812 yards and seven scores while rushing for 408 yards and two more touchdowns. His favorite targets are Travis Martin (410 yards, three TDs) and Jahlin Osbourne (20 catches, 333 yards, 2 TDs).

When the Red Raiders aren’t slinging it, senior running back Konor Heaton is a handful out of the backfield. Heaton is coming off a four-TD performance against Spring Hill, leading the Red Raiders to a 42-7 blowout. He has 607 yards rushing and 13 scores this year and also has caught a pair of TDs. 

Heaton was key in last year’s meeting, rushing for 162 yards and three scores to lead the Red Raiders to an easy win at home.

Warren County will look to return the favor this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Tickets are available on GoFan.