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Pioneers to start 2022 season in Smithville
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Pioneer senior Chandler McCormick, shown Wednesday in practice, will get the start Friday night at right tackle. McCormick is big and powerful and will be counted on to open running lanes.

Steve Trapp knows the DeKalb County-Warren County football rivalry better than anyone else.

Trapp started scheduling the Pioneers his first year as DeKalb County coach in 2005. The teams will meet for the 18th straight season tonight in Smithville with Warren County holding a razor-thin margin in the series, 9-8.

“The first few years, Warren County took care of business, but now it’s become a true rivalry with each team beating the other,” said Trapp. “There have been some one-sided games in there but most of the time it’s been down to the wire.”

Warren County started by winning the first three matchups and wants to keep the Tigers from evening the series. The Pioneers have a seasoned group of returning players with plenty of starting experience. They will lean heavily on their big offensive line which features four seniors.

Will Davis gets the start tonight at left tackle, Aiden Miller is left guard, Collin Panter is center, Darius Rippy is right guard, and Chandler McCormick is right tackle. Dayton Jernigan is an imposing force at tight end.

“I feel like this summer is the hardest we’ve ever worked,” said Chandler McCormick, a senior who has played all four years. “We’re a lot stronger.”

WCHS coach Matt Turner will utilize a running game that features Jaythan Pleasant and Dawson Haley as starting wingbacks and punishing runner Braylon Grayson at tailback.

When the Pioneers look to pass, senior QB Nate Elrod has been effective throwing to WR Alex van Vuuren all preseason. Van Vuuren has shown a knack for being able to go up and snatch the football and he’s always a threat to gain big yards after the catch.

Senior WR Wesley Sherrell is also an outside receiving threat. Grayson catches the ball well out of the backfield and had a big game two years ago in Smithville in his first varsity action as a sophomore.

If it comes down to a FG, Pioneer senior kicker Beckham Scott has shown he is up to the challenge. Scott said Wednesday at practice he’s ready to go and is especially confident inside 40 yards.

It promises to be a hostile environment as Trapp is expecting good things from a DeKalb County team that won two playoff games last year and has a number of three- and four-year starters returning.

“I really like our team,” said Trapp. “We have guys who have a lot of wins under their belt. Our juniors and seniors make for a pretty special upperclassman bunch.”

The DeKalb County offense revolves around senior tailback Colby Barnes who rushed for 128 yards against the Pioneers last year, averaging 9.8 yards per carry.

Trapp added, “There’s always another element when it’s your first game of the year. All you have is scrimmage tape to go on and you don’t know what they might do in a game. A game is a different atmosphere from playing a half in a jamboree, or going for 10 plays in a scrimmage. We have to come out for four quarters and make sure we avoid fumbles, bad snaps, penalties and things like that which tend to happen more in a first game.”