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Pioneers ready for rain, Riverdale
CJ Taylor.jpg
Friday's matchup will feature two of the best rushers in Region 3-6A. Junior QB CJ Taylor has 757 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, two shy of moving into second all-time in single season scores (Jeff Womack scored 34 touchdowns in 1980). - photo by Jeffery Simmons
Riverdale's Drew Smith.jpg
Photo courtesy of Helen Comer/DNJ Senior Riverdale running back Drew Smith is one of the best in the Midstate. Smith rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 TDs last year and is coming off a 100-yard performance in last week's loss to Oakland.

Matt Turner may need to rethink his motto of burning the ship. The Pioneers may need one to make it home Friday night.

Rain could play a huge part in a pivotal Region 3-6A meeting in Murfreesboro, where Warren County will be trying to keep itself in the playoff race when it takes on the Riverdale Warriors at 7 p.m.

Forecasts are calling for up to four inches of rain this weekend in Middle Tennessee, including heavy rain for Friday night. School officials even discussed the possibility of moving the game up, but the decision was ultimately made to keep the game as scheduled.

Turner doesn’t care about the weather conditions. He knows his team is ready to play football.

“Rain or shine, hot or cold, it doesn’t matter to us. We just want to play good football,” said Turner. “This is a huge opportunity. We are going to have to play our best because this is a very good opponent. We know the stakes and are ready to step up to the challenge.”

Riverdale (5-3) and Warren County (4-4) currently are part of a three-way tie with Cookeville for the third spot in the region standings. Riverdale has already beaten the Cavaliers, which means a win Friday would guarantee the Warriors a spot into the playoffs.

The Pioneers, on the other hand, would probably still need a Cookeville loss to 0-8 Rockvale Friday or a win against Oakland next week to secure a spot in the postseason.

Breaking down playoff scenarios would be a waste to Turner’s time. He only needs to know the first step.

“We’re only focused on this game. Worrying about things we can’t control only serves as a distraction. We want to be as good as we can possibly be and let everything shake out,” said Turner.

Warren County will need a spirited effort from its run defense this week. It will be tested by the best back the Pioneers have seen this season.

Riverdale running back Drew Smith rushed for over 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, including 87 yards and a score in last year’s 53-0 victory over the Pioneers. Smith hasn’t slowed down this season, even topping 100 yards against Oakland, the states’ No. 1 team, last week.

Warrior signal caller Taylor Yancey is also a threat with his legs. He scored a pair of touchdowns against the Patriots last week and found the endzone in last year’s matchup with the Pioneers as well.

It’s a cause for concern for the Pioneers, who have been trying to survive at linebacker all season. Warren County has lost three linebackers to injuries this year, leaving backup quarterback Bryson Elrod to step into the role the last few weeks.

Elrod is coming off his best week defensively though. The junior completely flipped last week’s game when he stepped in front of a pass late in the first half against Coffee County. His interception set up his 39-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the half, giving Warren County a 21-point halftime lead in an eventual 42-20 victory.

Warren County will also need to carry over last week’s rushing success if it hopes to upset the Warriors, who have won the last four meetings since 2015 by a combined score of 185-25. The Pioneers rushed for 400 yards last week, including QB CJ Taylor and RB Xander Lee each topping 100 yards.

Having multiple threats stepping up offensively to aid Taylor (757 yards, 15 TDs this season) makes the Pioneers dangerous.

“We know most defenses are going to scheme to stop No. 1, but we have a lot of options. We’re really just scratching the surface on what this offense can do and it seems to get better every week,” said Turner.

Follow @sstandardsports on Twitter for any breaking details if weather forces changes to Friday’s matchup.