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Pioneers ready for Red Raiders
Austin McBride.jpg
Starting guard Austin McBride is one of 11 seniors who will suit up for the final time at Nunley Stadium Friday. McBride has helped the Pioneers rush for 1,413 yards and 20 TDs this season. - photo by Jeffery Simmons

In the cinematic masterpiece, “Face/Off,” John Travolta looks at Nic Cage and says, “It’s like looking in a mirror . . . only not.”

The Pioneers and Red Raiders could say the same thing Friday night.

Led by do-it-all quarterbacks, opportunistic defenses and first-year coaches who have revived their programs, Warren County and Coffee County will match up at Nunley Stadium for the 45th installment of the local border battle.

Pioneer coach Matt Turner will be at the helm for his first clash with Coffee County Friday night. He hopes this year can start reversing the trend in the series, with the Red Raiders winning four of the last five meetings.

“We feel very confident at home, but know it’s a big challenge. Coffee County is coming in thinking it can win this game,” said Turner. “We have to continue to do what we’ve been doing. Our hard work and the attitude of the kids and their focus has helped us start to right the ship this season.”

Improving to 4-1 at home for the first time in 14 years won’t be easy.

Coffee County, much like the Pioneers, has built some momentum in Region 3-6A games this season. The Red Raiders and Pioneers both enter the game 2-2 in region play, having beaten the same teams – Rockvale and Siegel – and lost to the same teams – Cookeville and Blackman.

Coffee County has been more dominant in its wins over the Murfreesboro schools, beating Rockvale 44-13 and holding a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter before Siegel added late scores in a 42-36 loss. In contrast, the Pioneers won both their region games at home by a single point, toppling the Rockets 36-35 and the Stars 29-28.

Warren County was much more competitive in losses, falling 25-19 at Cookeville two weeks ago and playing Blackman even for a half before losing 41-7. Coffee County was blown out at home by both teams, 65-0 by Blackman and 41-14 against Cookeville.

Turner sees a lot of similarities in his program and the Red Raiders, who are under first-year coach Doug Greene.

“They’re working to buy into a new system, like we are. It always takes some time and I think teams always improve as the season goes along. I see a lot improvement in Coffee County from last year to this year,” said Turner.

Warren County (3-4) will focus much of its attention on Matthew Pittman. The junior QB has been the engine of the Red Raider attack, leading the team in passing, rushing and touchdowns. At times, Pittman has even caught passes out of the backfield, showing an all-around game which will be familiar to Pioneer fans.

CJ Taylor does the same for Warren County.

The Pioneer junior quarterback also leads his team in passing (331 yards), rushing (655 yards) and touchdowns (12). Taylor is also second on the Pioneers in tackles with 49, trailing only senior Noah Martin’s 71 stops.

Warren County will be trying to send off 15 seniors on a winning note Friday, 11 of whom will be suiting up against the Red Raiders. Malichi Rippy, Cristian Espinoza, Dillon Haley, Austin McBride, Eli Buchanan, Joey Burgess, Lacederick Cox, Darrell Galloway, Kevin Sifuentes, Caleb McCormick and Martin will all be in action, while injured seniors Jay Rozier, Carter Mansfield, Trace Adcock and Garrett Ashburn will join their classmates before the game for senior night festivities.

Senior night honors are slated to start at 6:30 p.m. Kickoff follows at 7 p.m.