After two weeks of exciting games that turned into excruciating losses, the Pioneers were due a dull win. They got it Friday in Memphis, blanking Ridgeway 26-0 to end a nine-game losing streak and get Squad 54 its first victory.
While Pioneer faithful may have left Smithville and Sparta sick in the first two weeks, there was no doubting the quality of the games. They were true, pure Friday night spectacles – two teams playing tooth-and-nail to the final whistle while fanbases on both sides were going nuts. There was none of that in Memphis.
Before the game, I had a chance to start counting the fans. At 15 minutes before kickoff, my tally was at 88. At least 70 of those were on Warren County’s side, where some true fanatics made the four-hour pilgrimage west to see a win.
It was a good reminder to let people know that, throughout the years of ups and downs for football in Warren County (mostly downs), the support is second-to-none. Players also got to hear some mind-blowing admissions, like some Ridgeway game administrators saying they were proud the Roadrunners weren’t “afraid to take on big schools.”
Yes, I heard it myself – there were people in Memphis (with an estimated population of 650,000) referring to Warren County (and its modest 40,000-ish population) as the big school. And it wasn’t hard to understand why – they saw the Pioneers roll in on a charter bus, file out in nice looking jerseys (the stormtrooper Pioneer look – all white – may be their best) and proceed to go wire-to-wire for victory.
Coach Matt Turner didn’t miss a chance to let his team know about how different it can be for other programs, even ones from big cities in Tennessee. Warren County traveled like a 6A program, got a college-like road trip experience (including a trip to a local movie theater, a stay at a nice hotel and so much food over the span of 40 hours) and came away with its first win.
Was it pretty? Not really. The Pioneers probably had their worst effort of the year as a whole, playing sloppy at times but doing just enough to keep Ridgeway in check. Nothing exemplified the game more than Nate Elrod throwing an interception, only for the Pioneers to knock the ball loose from the Roadrunners on the return and Elrod diving on the loose ball. Elrod ran 56 yards to paydirt on the next play, putting his team up 13-0.
It was just the right kind of medicine the program needed after two demoralizing losses. They didn’t just get in the win column – they got a renewed sense of self-worth and the knowledge that, little-by-little, Warren County isn’t being considered a walkover win anymore.