It is never easy to see seniors play their final home games. It’s even tougher when they can’t come away with a win on that special night.
Warren County couldn’t pull off a win Thursday, falling 41-21 to Franklin County in the final game at Nunley Stadium this year. This has been a tough year for the Pioneers, but it’s especially showed at home since they only played four games in front of the home games. Thursday was the last chance to get a home win this season, but it slipped through their fingers the moment the ball started slipping out of their hands in the first half.
Three turnovers were tough to overcome and dug a hole too big against the fast and athletic Rebels. Still, I saw a lot of players and the seniors try to go out doing their absolute best. I see a lot of these kids in the classroom or hallways everyday and they really are passionate about football and representing Warren County.
They want to be good and have been so close so many times this year. It’s going to be hard for their senior class to look back at this year and know they lost five games by a combined 13 points – and maybe it’s a little different against Franklin County if they had the momentum of a 6-2 record instead of being 1-7 going into the game.
I hope they’ll remember getting to walk on the field with their families before the game and soak in that moment. It was a long ceremony with a lot of kids who put in a lot of effort this year on the gridiron.
Here are a few more big things that stood out from Thursday’s game. Here’s the ‘Good, Better and Best,’ which is sponsored every week by Douglas and Lanier Agency.
Good – Braylon Grayson plays his heart out
They announced the new Warren County Sports Hall of Fame members this week and there has to be a spot waiting for Braylon went he gets done playing for the Pioneers. He’s had a great career and it was tough to see him laying on the logo at midfield after the game trying to soak in his final moments at Nunley Stadium.
He had another special game against Franklin County. Braylon led the team in rushing with 86 yards and scored another touchdown. He also had a bunch of tackles again, maybe not the 21 tackles he was credited for at Shelbyville, but there were plenty of stops he had to make against the Rebels before they could break away.
Grayson also had a fumble recovery in the game that he returned over 40 yards and he was really close to picking up another fumble in the endzone that he could’ve brought back 100 yards for a score if he was able to grab it. Unfortunately, the Pioneers had two guys knock the ball away from each other while trying to make a play and Franklin County grabbed the loose ball for a TD instead.
Braylon is now ninth all time in rushing (after passing his brother) and is tied for eighth all time in receiving touchdowns. He’s going to have 100 tackles three straight seasons too.
Braylon Grayson has had a huge season for the Pioneers as a senior (Painted Barn Media)
Better – Passing attack wakes up again
It’s probably safe to say that Nate Elrod really like playing receiver when Warren County wants to throw the ball down the field. He’s done a lot of great things while playing quarterback the last two years, but he’s really fast and almost impossible to cover when he goes out to wide receiver.
He only had the ball come his way twice against the Rebels, but he made the most of it. He won a jumpball in the first half for an 18 yard TD that made it 14-7 and he also ran right past Franklin County’s defense for a 66 yard score in the final minute.
Alex van Vuuren was back on the field, but with only a couple of days of practice in the last three weeks, it looked a little rusty early. His throwing came back late when he hit Nate in stride with the deep ball that gave the Pioneers their final points.
The dynamic duo worked the other way too. Nate hit Alex with two long balls as well, one where Franklin County tried to pull van Vuuren down before he caught it but he still made the play.
Between the two QBs, they had 149 yards on six completions and two touchdowns. It could be something Warren County looks to add more of next year because the deep ball was good to them against the Rebels.
Nate Elrod had 65 yards passing and also caught two touchdowns against Franklin County (Painted Barn Media)
Best – The seniors
Coach Matt Turner has pointed out on several occasions this year that out of 1,800 (or more) students at the high school, the guys and girls who are on the sidelines every Friday night (or Thursday this week) are the ones who want to work and be there. Against Franklin County, the team took time to honor almost two dozen seniors and one manager who put on pads all year and did their best.
It will be weird not hearing names like Braylon, Nate and Dayton Jernigan next year. It will be weird not seeing Madison Christian in uniform and going in there to mix it up when her number was called. She was in on two of the team’s touchdown drives against Franklin County.
It’s just going to be weird to not have all the seniors next year. Thanks so much for playing and continuing to work hard Braylon, Nate, Dayton, Maddie, Mark Bouldin, Will Davis, Bradley Duenas, Dawson Haley, Zachary Luck, Jonathan Martinez, Chandler McCormick, Levi Melton, Andrew Miller, Colin Newsom, Collin Panter, Harper Riley, Darius Rippy, Beckham Scott, Wesley Sherrell, Saul Smith, Evan Watts, Seth Cruze and manager Allison Parton.