The long wait is over for the Warren County High School football team.
The Pioneers will finally put on the pads for the start of the regular season tonight when Warren County travels to DeKalb County to face the Tigers.
It is the eighth straight year the Pioneers have played the Tigers and the sixth time in a row the two teams have met to begin the season.
Warren County holds the series lead with five wins in the past seven years, but the Tigers come into this year hoping to extend their winning streak to two games in the series.
DeKalb County won 26-7 at Nunley Stadium last year and several key Tigers return with the hopes of knocking off their border rivals a second straight year.
Warren County coach Tommy Johnson, who enters his third season with a 3-17 record, knows the challenge the Tigers pose in the opener.
“DeKalb County is a solid team,” said Johnson. “They can throw the ball and make plays. They have a good quarterback and some solid receivers.”
Lucas Phillips returns for his senior season as the starting QB for DeKalb County. Phillips threw three touchdowns in last year’s victory at Nunley Stadium and he helped guide DeKalb County to an 8-3 record, which included a berth in the state playoffs.
Phillips has two main weapons on the outside. Senior Sonni Young is a matchup nightmare at wide receiver. Young, who stands 6-foot-5, caught a touchdown against Warren County two years ago when the Pioneers won 19-16 in Smithville.
Senior Will Molander is a dangerous slot receiver who hauled in six catches for 60 yards a year ago against Warren County, including a touchdown in the opening quarter.
Warren County also has a dangerous passing attack returning, but the Pioneers have spent most of the offseason improving the run game.
Junior Hunter Mullican is entrenched as the starting quarterback after a record-setting sophomore campaign and has top targets Mitchell Ashford, Kendall Rutledge and Lee Carden returning.
Mullican will get to rely on the running game more this season as juniors Cameron Lusk and D’Andre League each look primed for big seasons.
Lusk and League form a “smash and dash” combo for the Pioneers as Lusk is a bruising back while League has the ability to bust any run for a touchdown.
Sophomore Bryson Lewis could also see plenty of carries in tonight’s game against the Tigers.
The Pioneers hope to improve defensively this season after allowing over 40 points per game last year.
Seniors Aaron McKinley and Justin Crittenden lead the defensive front, while senior cornerbacks Tyler Worthington and Alex Hillis anchor the secondary.
Coach Johnson believes the Pioneers are a much improved team from a year ago, but he also realizes his squad has to take everything one game at a time.
“I think we’ve done everything we can since the end of the last season to be ready for this year,” said Johnson. “We’ve done the work in the weight room, the conditioning and have had good practices this fall. Now it’s about taking it one game at a time and putting our sole focus on DeKalb County.”
Tonight’s kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and Pioneer fans are encouraged to arrive early since seating is limited at Dr. John L. Vanhooser Memorial Stadium.