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Questions for the coach
Cookeville Pregame.jpg
WCHS head coach Matt Turner watches the Pioneers in warmups Friday before taking the field against Cookeville. - photo by Brad Durham

The Warren County football coaching staff voted Nate Elrod MVP of the game against Cookeville. Braylon Grayson was defensive player of the game. Eli Cantrell was offensive player of the game. Tavion Miller was special teams’ player of the game.

The Southern Standard spoke with head Pioneer football coach Matt Turner on Monday. The team was shaken up Monday by a death of a family member of defensive coordinator Camron Bond.

Question No. 1. The biggest challenge this year?

Matt Turner: COVID, up to this point. Trying to overcome the effects of it, and missing about 20 days of contact with the players. It is a lot more than simply missing practices.

Question No. 2. Can you describe the Tubby formation?

Turner: Some people call it a 4 by 2. It is an overload set. It is unbalanced. There are four linemen on one side of the center, and two on the other side. It can be a two tight-end set. A tight end can unbalance a formation by one, and we are increasing it. 

If a defense doesn’t adjust to it, we will smash that side. We have a lot of plays to run out of it. It is almost a mindset. The rules and thinking are very simplified. It is almost a version of goal line football. The players know that when we call Tubby no one can stop it.

Question No. 3. Do you see similarities between Squad53 and Squad51?

Turner: I can explain what Squad52 was. Squad52 graduated 22 seniors and 18 seniors played all of the football. We were junior heavy in Squad51. This year with Squad53, we are back to being a junior-heavy team.

Everyone on this team is inexperienced except for Dayton Jernigan and Braylon Grayson. Everyone on Squad51 was new to us. It was my first year as head coach.

The goal is to reach the state championship, much as it is in wrestling. Everything is leading up to that playoff berth. We are preparing this team to reach the playoffs. We are playing Siegel to learn about Rutherford County teams. We will see a Rutherford County in round one of the playoffs. We are still on course to make the playoffs. There is not a strike against us. Today, our goal to be region champs is still alive.

Question No. 4.  What was the biggest surprise for you in the Cookeville game?

Turner:  The biggest surprise is how this young tempered squad found a way to win. They made their own luck. I know if you are looking at it from Cookeville’s perspective, Warren County just got lucky. 

The kids kept burning the ship and putting themselves in the right place at the right time. It could have been 7-0 at halftime, but Cookeville chose to keep going after us, and we capitalized. 

I think those opportunities present themselves all the time on the football field, and I was surprised our guys jumped on it and capitalized on it.

Braylon started the tackle, and Tavion (Miller) was wrapping him up, and on film, we saw Hunter (Pezzimenti) knock the ball loose. Nate (Elrod) was there to pick the ball up. That was effort on our part making something happen.

Note: Nate Elrod picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown to give Warren County a 13-7 lead as time expired in the first half.

Question No. 5.  How bad does it hurt to potentially lose Dayton Jernigan for the season?

Turner:  I would be lying if I said it would not be detrimental to lose Dayton Jernigan for the season. I hate it more for what it is doing to Dayton. Squad53 will be fine. Mark Bouldin and Shayd Johnson are stepping up. We have players to fill in.

I hate it more for Dayton Jernigan. I was lucky. As a player, I never missed a practice. It is tough for me to put myself in his place. I hope he comes back in a couple of weeks.

Question No. 6.  What is your go-to song, something you want to hear after a game?

Turner:  The song that picks me up before or after a game is what the kids are listening to and motivating them. That is my jam.

Question No. 7.  What is the status of the PFL, Pioneer Football League for youth?

Turner:  What we are establishing with flag football can happen in November or March. I have had calls about it. We will get there. Until we figure out this COVID thing, it is tough. 

I cannot shut down a varsity program and then go promote a youth league. We will eventually get all of this behind us, and develop the youth program.