The Warren County Middle School football team has been growing into a force in Middle Tennessee, so it should be of no surprise the Pioneers continue to have players recognized as the best in the state.
For the third year, the Pioneers had players picked to take part in Tennessee vs. Kentucky Future Stars game. Eighth-grade linemen Ethan Stuart and Krojhn Calbert and seventh-grade defensive back Noah Campbell were each selected to compete in the game played June 15 at Knoxville Catholic High School. The Pioneers had a fourth player recognized as offensive lineman Justin Holt was selected as an alternate.
The tradition of sending players to the prestigious All-Star game started three years ago when Ethan Turner made the team and was accompanied by coach Greg Cotten, who was asked to be on the All-Star staff. Two years ago, Rickie King was the second Pioneer to make the team.
Coach Cotten will once again be a part of the staff this year and will get to coach the three Pioneer players. Coach Cotten, who currently coaches at WCHS after leading the WCMS team for five years, thought the players did great at tryouts and turned some heads.
“They did really well, as evidenced by three making the team,” said Cotten. “The selection committee was very impressed with all three. The great thing is we’ve had five kids make this team since they started the game four years ago.”
Stuart was a standout on the offensive and defensive lines for the Pioneers last year. Stuart opened holes for the Warren County running backs on offense and was one of the team’s top tacklers despite facing constant double teams on defense. Stuart will work exclusively on the offensive line when he reports to camp June 12.
Calbert had to deal with a chronic leg injury during his eighth-grade year, but was still a force when he was on the field. Blessed with the size and speed to be a constant disrupter, Calbert was the team leader in sacks before the injury cut his season short.
Campbell was able to make the seventh-grade team as a defensive back after playing the position for the Pioneers last year. Campbell has the hands to make interceptions and the aggression to come up in run support and make tough tackles.
Future Stars director Josh Jones spoke highly of the Warren County players, who were a select few to make the team that had over 450 kids statewide try out.
“All three players got very good reviews from our scouts who were at the tryouts in three cities across the state,” said Jones. “To get selected, they would’ve had to have good days at their combine. From reading their reviews, Krojhn was a kid who stood out the moment he walked up and Team Tennessee coach Todd Kelly loved Ethan’s motor and tenacity.”
Coach Kelly, a University of Tennessee graduate and former NFL player, will get to give his players an up-close look at his alma mater during their training for the Future Stars game. The team will practice at the University of Tennessee and attend meetings at the new $50 million athletic building on campus. The night before the game, the players will attend at banquet held in the sky box at Neyland Stadium.
All the University of Tennessee involvement, along with a record number of kids who attended tryouts, makes Jones believe the event is really taking off statewide.
“Every year we are getting bigger and bigger,” said Jones. “Last year the game was broadcast on Fox Sports South and it will be again this year and shown in six states.
“Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his staff have opened the doors and welcomed us as well. It’s becoming a big event.”