The scene was set. Fans were jam packed into Nunley Stadium, still buzzing from the homecoming pep rally held downtown Friday afternoon. A hated rival was standing on the other side, exactly the foe teams want to vanquish on a big night.
Coach Matt Turner even busted out black uniforms, long rumored but finally debuted in hopes to drawing some extra juice. Nothing would have capped the night off better than handing Coffee County a whooping and starting a run to finish the regular season.
Instead, the Red Raiders ran over the Pioneers on their way to a 34-17 win.
The final score only looked respectable after Warren County scored twice in the fourth quarter, but - make no mistake – it was one-sided for three quarters as the Red Raiders made themselves at home on Pioneer football’s homecoming.
All losses hurt, whether it's one point or 100. Teams can leave with different perspectives following each setback though. Earlier this year when the Pioneers had two heartbreakers go against them, it felt like Warren County was close.
Just one more big play, one more tackle or having the ball bounce their way could’ve left the Pioneers 2-0 and riding high. Nobody was looking for moral victories, most of all coach Turner, but there were positives to leave with in those losses even if they were both painful pills to swallow.
It was the same story in the first two home losses, where Warren County could’ve – and probably should’ve – scored late against Cookeville to take that game and was only held back by self-inflicted wounds from beating Siegel. Leaving those games, it was easy to feel like the Pioneers were just inches away from being a good team.
Friday was different. Coffee County stole Warren County’s passion and beat the Pioneers into submission. Even when the Red Raiders led at halftime 14-3, a smaller lead than the one the Cavs had two weeks ago that the Pioneers erased in the matter of minutes, it felt like it was over.
Warren County fell into the same traps that have marred previous coaching regimes – backbreaking penalties, frustration personal fouls and rolling over when an opponent got rolling.
It was big for Nate Elrod and Braylon Grayson to find the endzone twice late and the team to show some signs of life, but a bye week is coming at a perfect time.
The Pioneers have to find their own energy and redemption now. No amount of fans or fuel from a rivalry game could help Friday. And the last thing the Pioneers should want to hear, especially in brand-new jerseys, is “they look like the same ol' Warren County.”