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Strong nucleus back for WCHS football
Nate Elrod runs.jpg

Who will it be at quarterback as the WCHS football team barrels toward its upcoming season?

Nate Elrod is the returning starter, a gritty player who can scamper around and make explosive plays. But he’s also a game-breaking receiver.

Alex van Vuuren showed flashes at quarterback during his first season of football last year. He’s sturdy as a ball carrier and has dependable arm strength. 

Would van Vuuren be more effective under center throwing to a speedy Elrod, who loves to compete when the football is in the air?

“There’s been a lot of discussion in the coaching room about how to be the most successful with these guys,” said WCHS coach Matt Turner. “Both of them will be on the field. Nate is our triggerman, but there’s good competition with Alex. Nate has already asked me if he can play some wide receiver and he’s probably our best route runner. We’ll have to see what happens.”

Outside of the QB position, the Pioneers have a wealth of returning players who have already proven themselves on Friday nights. Braylon Grayson plays linebacker like he’s in a demolition derby and is always one of the best players on the field.

Jaython Pleasant is a walking big play. He brings speed to the Pioneer offense along with all-around star Donathan Lewis, who plays in the secondary and returns kicks.

Dayton Jernigan makes his return after a knee injury in Cookeville ended his junior season. Jernigan was cleared for full participation a few weeks ago and provides a bruising presence at offensive tackle.

Coach Turner is glowing about his guys up front, saying they’re big, strong and fast.

“We have a chance to have a very good offensive line,” said Turner. “Darius Rippy is going to find time at guard and he’s like a fullback the way he can run and pull. Collin Panter took over our starting center job last year and he’ll be back in that role. He’s a smart kid who is also a basketball player so he’s mobile. Will Davis is 6-foot-7 and has all the measurables. He’s so much stronger in the weight room. It’s like he woke up and realized he has muscles.”

Levi Melton, Chandler McCormick and Zander McCormick are all linemen who have varsity experience and pack a whallop at the point of attack.

“One of the best things about this team is there’s so much familiarity with what we’re doing,” said Turner. “We lost a couple key seniors, but for the most part it was juniors out there playing last year and they have made big strides between their junior and senior years. We have so many returners, we can move quickly through what we’re doing because we have so many who know the system and know what we’re doing already.”

Turner said he expects the kicking game to turn in Warren County’s favor this year with FG kicker Beckham Scott returning and putting in time at kicking camps. Brayan Holquin enters his second year as punter and Talan Mullican is smooth as the team’s long snapper. “Talan could play at the next level,” said coach Turner. “He’s a natural at it.”

Pioneer fans can get a look at the 2022 WCHS football team this Friday night at Nunley Stadium for the annual Spring Game. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

Bring a box of laundry detergent or a case of bottled water for admission in what coach Matt Turner is calling the Suds and Rinse Game.