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Taylor takes home top honor
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College coaches are starting to see the potential of CJ Taylor on defense. The Pioneer junior, who was an unofficial visitor at Kentucky last weekend, devastated opponents this fall, including this big hit against DeKalb County. Taylor's two-way excellence earned him the Region 3-6A Athlete of the Year honor.
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CJ Taylor had one of the best rushing season in Pioneer history, finishing with 15 touchdowns
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CJ Taylor made plenty of tacklers miss on his way to 898 yards rushing and 15 TDs this fall.

In a region regarded as one of the toughest in Tennessee – one which regularly produces Division 1 football players – CJ Taylor can say he was the best athlete in 2019.

Taylor was recently recognized as the Region 3-6A Athlete of the Year. It was a fitting honor for the two-way Pioneer stud, who was a standout at every position when his coaches called his number.

“I’m very proud of CJ. It’s nice to see a kid rewarded for the ability and skill set they possess and the work they put in,” said Matt Turner, who was 4-6 in his first season leading the Pioneers. “It also says a lot about our team and the work they did to help CJ excel.”

Taylor was the team’s starting QB for most of the season, but also lined up at running back in multiple games when Warren County decided to pound opponents with a jumbo formation. The dynamic playmaker also had the team’s lone touchdown catch this season – a 39-yard Hail Mary right before halftime against region foe Coffee County.

Taylor finished the season with 898 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns (the fifth-most in a season in school history), along with 355 yards passing and a receiving TD. 

He did the bulk of his damage in the team’s seven region games, finishing with over 100 yards rushing in five contests, including a season-high 147 yards in a win over Rockvale. Taylor also had a rare 100-100 game, throwing for 149 yards and rushing for 132 yards in a victory over Siegel.

When tasked as the team’s primary ball carrier late in the season, Taylor finished with 132 yards on 25 carries at Cookeville and 119 yards on 28 carries at Oakland, the most yards the Patriots surrendered on the ground on a single opponent in the regular season.

Throwing, running, catching – it was all the same to Taylor. If it helped his team, the junior was ready to do it.

“I made a promise to myself that I would get healthy again and be the player I know I could be.  When I’m healthy, I feel like I’m one of the top ‘dawgs’ in the region,” said Taylor. “To get this award in the toughest region means a lot. I wouldn’t have been able to get this award without coach Turner and the staff putting their trust in me in late-game situations and in places to make plays.

“Most importantly, I couldn’t have done this without my mom – she does so much for me. (I have) much love for that woman.”

While his offensive exploits were the envy of the region, defense will likely be his future if Taylor pursues football in college. He’s a game wreaker when he arrives to the football.

Taylor was second on the team with 65 tackles, including five for loss and a sack. He also had two interceptions, four passes broken up and two caused fumbles. 

“We try to balance it out. We don’t want to put the whole load on him, but it’s nice to have an athlete of his caliber in the program as a role model,” said Turner. “With his versatility, we get to go forward and build our team while finding the best fit for the program and for CJ.”

Taylor is currently focused on the basketball season, where he currently leads the Pioneers in scoring and rebounding. He’ll turn his attention back to football in the spring, where he plans to start attending camps in hopes of securing scholarship offers.

It’s likely Taylor will get his chance at the next level, but it won’t be before he returns one more year to wreak havoc on Region 3-6A.