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Ready for Rebels
FB - Jaythan Pleasant and Braylon Grayson 10-20.jpg
Two players who will help define the success of the Pioneers Friday night are explosive running backs sophomore Jaythan Pleasant, left, and junior Braylon Grayson. They have shown they can make big runs in any game for Warren County. - photo by Brad Durham

The Pioneers travel to Franklin County on Friday and renew a rivalry that has been dormant for over a decade. The two rural football teams are similar in many ways, but Franklin County (4-4) is a 5A team and Warren County (1-5) is in a larger classification, 6A. 

Franklin County is riding a four-game winning streak and Warren County has lost its last four games. On paper, Franklin County may appear to be the favorite, yet Warren County has had a good week of practice. There are legitimate reasons to be optimistic about the Pioneers’ chances against Franklin County.


FRANKLIN COUNTY OVERVIEW

One similarity between the teams is Franklin County head coach Justin Cunningham is a hometown guy coaching his hometown team, which mirrors Matt Turner at Warren County. Another similarity is the young linemen the Rebels have on the offensive line – three sophomores will start for them.

One difference is Franklin County has played eight games versus Warren County’s six. More game experience has given Franklin County time to develop young players. Coach Cunningham said, “I felt like last week was the first game where the kids were buying in. It was the first week I felt like we played for 48 minutes.”

Cunningham explained how his team has worked hard on getting better. Cunningham said, “We have started conditioning before practice so that we work on our assignments and plays when we are tired, like in a game. The ninth game of the season is when we want to see no lack of effort, no blown assignments. It has been 12 years since we have been to the playoffs, and we are going this year as either the No. 3 or 4 seed in our region.”

Playmakers for the Rebels are all players the Pioneers will see again next year. Quarterback Keandre Johnson, No. 5, is a junior. Nashawn Holman, No. 1, a junior is Johnson’s favorite receiver (271 yards) and the third leading rusher (323 yards). The No. 1 running back is junior Emmanuel Scott, No. 11, who has 525 yards rushing. Sophomore Eric Jones, No. 7, is the second-leading rusher with 483 yards.

WARREN COUNTY

OVERVIEW

The Pioneers have enjoyed a good week of practice. Players are coming in asking for help studying film and assignments. Players have evolved to start and receive playing time who were not on the varsity depth chart at the beginning of the season. What a long, strange trip is has been through the first 8-9 weeks of the season.

A junior, Collin Panter has moved into the starting rotation at defensive end and tight end, with some time at tackle over the past few weeks. This week Panter is going to start at center. 

Collin discussed the changes of moving to center, “Getting off the ball as soon as you snap it is the hardest part. They are right there on the ball, so as soon as you snap, they are moving too. I picked up a completely new skill this week moving to center. Me and other linemen have been pushing each other after practice to get to the line faster. I want to beat Franklin County, 100%!”

Defensive coordinator Camron Bond thought practice went well during the week. Bond said, “They came out here with a focus. They have been communicating to each other. They have been getting to the ball, and when they do that, I can correct what they are doing. We have to be prepared for Franklin County. Seeing two different styles of offense makes you learn what to do.”

WCHS head coach Matt Turner was pleased with the week of practice as well. Turner said, “I have seen this team grow up this week, to become more mature. They are taking more responsibility. And they have learned that if they do what we ask them to do in practice, it can be fun. I saw Collin Panter move over to center, and Chandler McCormick slide over to tackle and Darius Rippy move over to guard. They were knocking people around, having fun.”

Turner continued, “They are starting to be able to be coached as a varsity team. I am tickled to death with Andrew Miller. He texted me early this morning, and he wanted to know if I would be available at 2:00 to go over some plays and assignments. We got together and it was a good moment. He is starting to learn and watch film. It is sinking in for him.”


GENERAL OVERVIEW

The Pioneer backfield will be virtually identical to what it has been the past few weeks. Nate Elrod will start at quarterback, and Braylon Grayson, Keldrick Cox, Eli Cantrell, and Jaythan Pleasant will be rotating at tailback and wingbacks. Alex van Vuuren may relieve Nate Elrod at quarterback to give Elrod some rest from playing both offense and defense.

Friday night’s forecast calls for excellent fall weather that will be ideal for high school football. The stadium at Franklin County is approximately 45 minutes from McMinnville. Fans are encouraged to go to the game and support the Pioneers against an old rival.