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Pioneers pumped for playoffs
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Pioneer sophomore Braylon Grayson has made his presence felt on both sides of the football and on special teams.
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The Pioneer offensive line, known as The Syrup Squad, hopes to make pancake blocks Friday night.

The Pioneer football team showed it belonged on the same field with No. 1-ranked Oakland last Friday night at Nunley Stadium.

Now the Pioneers will look to show they belong in the postseason when they travel to Mt. Juliet this Friday to face the Golden Bears in first-round playoff action.

The game will feature two teams who began the year like they were shot from a high-powered rifle. The Pioneers raced out to an 8-0 start before finishing the regular season 8-2. Mt. Juliet started 5-0 before finishing 6-3.

Similarly, Warren County and Mt. Juliet were both playing for the championship in their regions the final week of the regular season. 

Warren County lost 36-20 to Oakland to fall to the No. 3 seed, while Mt. Juliet lost to Hendersonville 24-14 to fall to the No. 2 seed. 

The top four teams in each region make the playoffs, meaning the No. 1 seed from one region plays host to the No. 4 seed of another region.

Warren County and Mt. Juliet did not have a common opponent this season.

The Pioneers are coming off a game where quarterback C.J. Taylor returned to his all-world form with a 203-yard rushing performance, which included a 53-yard TD.

Turnovers were an uncharacteristic problem for Warren County against Oakland. For a team that has rarely turned the ball over this year, the Pioneers lost a fumble and threw two interceptions against the Patriots, yet were still in the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Mt. Juliet is coming off a game where it struggled offensively against Hendersonville. Mt. Juliet’s first TD came in the opening quarter when the Golden Bears blocked a punt and recovered it in the endzone. Their second TD came after an 84-yard kickoff return set up an extremely short field.

Mt. Juliet only ran 12 offensive plays in the first half, yet held a 14-10 lead against Hendersonville thanks largely to those two plays on special teams. Mt. Juliet didn’t score in the second half.

Warren County has leaned on its running game all season, especially in big games, and could find success on the perimeter. Against Hendersonville, Mt. Juliet showed it is susceptible to the outside run, allowing TDs of 64 and 52 yards on jet sweeps.

Warren County has been inconsistent in the passing game. Against Oakland, the Pioneers only completed one pass for seven yards. In a 35-28 win over Blackman, the Pioneers didn’t complete a pass all game, yet amassed 418 yards rushing.

Friday night will mark Warren County’s first playoff appearance since the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but those playoff berths should come with an asterisk. The TSSAA changed its playoff format those two seasons to allow all 6A teams to reach postseason.

The last time the Pioneers made the football playoffs based on their record was in 2008 under coach Chris Madewell. The Pioneers beat Cookeville that year on the way to finishing the regular season 4-6.