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Weather, Shelbyville put damper on Homecoming
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Junior Pioneer football player Braylon Grayson pounded his way to 71 yards Friday night and was Warren County’s leading rusher for the game. - photo by Brad Durham

Perhaps during this unusual season it was fitting that Homecoming festivities were flipped from halftime to a pregame ceremony. Avoiding inclement weather was the reason to get the Homecoming Court introduced and the king and queen crowned before kickoff. 

As Warren County fans know, the football schedule was changed this season because of COVID-19, but now the season is going as originally scheduled. Unfortunately, losing 41-26 to Shelbyville Central was not what the Pioneer football team had planned for its Homecoming celebration.

Losing is not something head Pioneer coach Matt Turner can accept, and he is not looking for any moral victories. However, there are some silver linings of this game and season. The biggest benefit has been the playing time younger players have experienced. 

Jaythan Pleasant is a sophomore who has recently been treating an ankle sprain, yet he continues to show breakaway ability running and catching the ball. Pleasant had a 31-yard run and a 29-yard reception against Shelbyville. He has a bright future at Warren County.

Sophomore Alex van Vuuren has started on defense all season, and has recently shown superior athletic ability running and catching the ball. Van Vuuren had a 32-yard reception for a touchdown Friday night, and he also had a 15-yard reception that included some remarkable open-field running and good body control.

Coach Turner is pleased with the development of some young linemen including Darius Rippy, Mark Bouldin, Bryan Currey and Xander McCormick. A surprise Friday night was Brayan Holguin’s running ability on a play in which he was supposed to punt the ball, but when rushed, Holguin decided to run the ball and gained 20 yards.

Kickoff return specialist and defensive back Donathan Lewis has been receiving praise all season from his coaching staff, and Friday night against Shelbyville, Lewis returned a kickoff for a 91-yard TD. Lewis is a big playmaker in the making according to his coaches.

It may not appear to be a silver lining, but the football team, including both players and coaches, have looked into the “accountability mirror,” and consequently, they are dedicated to getting stronger in the weight room for next season. One reason the Pioneers have been losing yardage at times on offense and not making more tackles that stop opposing teams’ drives is the overall strength of the team. Coaches are saying they are getting players into the weight room now to get stronger for the present and future.

NARRATIVE OF

THE GAME

The Pioneers gave away the ball on a fumble/ lateral on the first drive. Shelbyville recovered the ball on Warren County’s 30-yard line. Six plays later, Shelbyville took a 7-point lead. 

Warren County responded immediately when Donathan Lewis returned the kickoff for a crowd-pleasing 91-yard TD and tied the score, 7-7. Shelbyville then put together a 70-yard drive to go ahead 13-7, which was the score at halftime.

Shelbyville opened the second half with a 68-yard drive for a TD and then made the 2-point conversion for a 21-7 lead. The next Shelbyville score came after an interception at Warren County’s 22-yard line. Shelbyville’s running back, Laquan Young, ran the ball 22 yards for one of his three TDs in the game. The score gave Shelbyville a commanding 27-7 lead. 

Warren County showed toughness by continuing to score, but Shelbyville kept responding with its own scores. The upside for the Pioneers was that they showed effort and determination, which the coaching staff had been asking for all week in practice. 

With 7:19 left in the fourth quarter and trailing 41-20, Keldrick Cox recovered Warren County’s onside kick on the 47-yard line. The Pioneers put together a gutsy drive that ended with Nate Elrod scoring on a 5-yard run to compete the scoring for the night at 41-26 with only 46.5 seconds left. Shelbyville recovered the ensuing onside kick and then went into the victory formation.


PLAYER COMMENTS

Opposing quarterback and Shelbyville senior Cade Cunningham expects to play in college. After the game, Cunningham shared some thoughts about the game. 

“We got the offense rolling. Hit some plays downfield a little bit. Had some guys up front that did well. Four balls were dropped, but it was the rain. We put up 41 points, which I believe is the most we put up all year. They (Warren County) were more physical than I thought they would be. I watched a lot of film on them. They filled the gaps and we went outside on them in the bubble screens.”

Pioneer junior Braylon Grayson was injured and left the field for one play late in the game. As usual, Grayson played well on both sides of the ball. Grayson summed up the game succinctly and discussed his injury. 

“On third down we have to get a stop. On offense, we have to improve on emotion and snap calls. Their linebackers were blitzing. I just got the wind knocked out of me.”

Sophomore Alex van Vuuren is playing his first year of competitive football. After the game, he talked about his and the team’s performance, “I played some at wide receiver and tight end. I think we could not stop them on third and fourth downs, and once they got close to the end zone, we could not hold them. Offensively, we have to get back to work.”

Junior quarterback and safety Nate Elrod played well, and has been told by his coaches that he has to release the ball or take sacks closer to the line of scrimmage. His coaches are pleased with his performance and effort. Elrod explained the first turnover in the game. 

“The first fumble was my fault. I should not have tried to force something. I tried to throw it out in the flat, and it was a backwards pass. We have to come out stronger in the first half.”


PIONEER COACH

COMMENTS

Pioneer defensive coordinator Camron Bond saw progress, but he wants the defense to keep improving. Bond said, “We tackled as a team better. We were a step away from getting off the field on third and fourth down. It was improvement from the last few weeks.”

Head coach Turner took some of the blame for the loss, and saw some positive aspects. Turner said, “We got plenty of effort out of the team. I just didn’t put them in the right positions in the second half. We put ourselves in a hole. I have to do a better job of not putting us behind the sticks. Defensively, I think we stepped up and tackled better tonight. They had some good running backs and No. 8 (Shelbyville quarterback Cade Cunningham) is a dude. The team stepped up to the challenge to give more effort, and I feel like we can finish the season strong. We can go to Winchester and right the ship and burn this one this week, and go from there.”

Turner continued, “It is frustrating. I do not like losing. Moral victories are for the birds. I do not accept them and I don’t want them to either.”


NEXT GAMES

The Pioneers are on the road next week at Franklin County in a non-region game. 

The Pioneers return home Oct. 29 to host region foe Lebanon for Senior Night. With Cookeville’s loss to Coffee County on Friday night, the Pioneers are expected to gain a berth in the playoffs as the fourth seed in the region. The playoff picture will be updated next week.