Preseason is over. That should be the message coach Matt Turner delivers to his team when Squad 54 regroups for film study and recovery Sunday and practice Monday. The games count starting this Friday against Cookeville.
It’s convenient to say the first four games didn’t matter for the Pioneers after a 1-3 start, including the 41-0 shellacking at the hands of Mt. Juliet Friday, but it’s just the truth. Being 4-0 at this point would mean nothing if Warren County couldn’t find a way to get more wins in region games. By the same token, everybody will forget the 1-3 start – and the goose egg the team laid against the Golden Bears – if they start rolling off victories now.
OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. Outside of the Men in Black showing up with a neuralyzer and wiping out the memories of all Pioneer faithful, there will be no forgetting the heartbreak of the losses in Smithville and Sparta. They cut too deep and are going to leave a nasty scar.
The shutout against Mt. Juliet though? That’s something the Pioneers should forget as quickly as possible. Burn the tape, stop scheduling the Golden Bears and be done with it. Coach Matt Turner is the master of burning the ship and moving on – there’s no better time to use his slogan than the present.
People are going to laugh when they read this, but I don’t care. The Pioneers – yes, the team that is 1-3 and reeling off a blowout loss – can host a playoff game this year. It’s very, very possible.
Region 3-6A isn’t full of juggernauts like when the Pioneers played mostly Murfreesboro schools. Lebanon is going to be the favorite (even if the Blue Devils just lost to Siegel – the Pioneer opponent in two weeks - in overtime Friday 31-28). Aside from that, who should scare the Pioneers?
Coffee County is 2-2, but the Red Raiders have to come to Nunley Stadium on homecoming. If there was ever a night where the Pioneers should get a huge boost from the crowd, it will be when the student section is packed. Also, it’s a rivalry game – one deciding if the current seniors leave with a winning record against the group 25 miles down the road.
Cookeville seems a little more dangerous after scoring 54 points Friday against Sparta, but the Cavaliers are still 1-3 and have lost to the Pioneers the last two years. Warren County also will be playing at home for the first time – another plus in the home team’s pocket.
And then there’s winless Shelbyville, which has lost its last three games by 86 points.
Win one of those games and it’s likely the Pioneers earn their way to the playoffs for a third-straight year. Take two and then you (likely) avoid Oakland in the first round. Sweep them all and you’re playing under the lights in November at Nunley Stadium.
The real season starts now.