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Pioneers stick with ground and pound
Double team block
Jeffery Simmons photo Dillon Haley, left, and Austin Jakes set up a double-team block during Friday's matchup against White County. The Pioneers rushed for 230 yards in a 20-13 victory.

Attacking through the air has become the new wave of football. Slinging the ball while five receivers run free is en vogue, with young players dreaming of becoming the next Tom Brady or Odell Beckham Jr.

The Pioneers haven’t joined in on the trend. Warren County still prefers to keep it on the ground.

The reasoning is simple: what coach wouldn’t run when they have an offensive line opening holes big enough for trucks to come through.

“If it works, you keep doing it. We’re going to keep trying to run it,” said Pioneer coach Tom Moore. “I think we have guys who are taking pride in coming off the ball. Our line is playing with a good mentality.”

Moore believed in the offseason his strength would be in the trenches. He was right.
Through two games, the Pioneers have rushed for 550 yards, with star running backs CJ Taylor and Eric Haywood each averaging over 100 yards per game.

The men opening up the holes have mostly been the same. Noah Martin has played every snap at center and is flanked on his right by senior Austin Jakes and junior Dillon Haley. To the left, brothers Devin and Kaden Jordan were opening up holes against DeKalb County.

Moore switched things up against White County, shifting Devin Jordan to tight end and bringing in sophomore Jessie Lira at guard. Jordan and Aiden Cummings have each practiced at tight end, giving the Pioneers two more big bodies who are adept at steamrolling defenders.

“We haven’t been using the tight end a lot,” said Moore. “Devin’s an experienced guy. He has picked up some things. He was out wide with Raven (Lewandowski) and threw a big block on our swing-pass touchdown against White County.”

Warren County (1-1) hasn’t eschewed the evolving offense entirely. The Pioneers aren’t running the Wing-T or putting all 11 players in tight to grind out three yards each play. Warren County plays out of a spread look most downs, going into shotgun to give the running backs less resistance in the box.

“When you take a person out (wide), they have to take a person out,” said Moore. “Oregon came out with the spread and even when they had Marcus Mariota, they were more of a running team. If you can run the ball, you have a chance to pass.”

Clay Thompson did benefit Friday from the attention paid to the Pioneer backs, finishing a tidy 4-for-7 for 53 yards and a touchdown. Thompson also rushed for 41 yards, including a huge 14-yard run late in the fourth to convert a long third down.

“Clay had a good night. If your quarterback runs, teams have to account for it. It’s like having another man on offense,” said Moore.

Warren County’s ground game will be put to the test this Friday against the Cookeville Cavaliers. Kickoff in Cookeville is set for 7 p.m.