Adversity - It's a word the Pioneers are hearing a lot lately. They have been forced to overcome an abundance of obstacles this season, which now features five losses by a combined 13 points. The latest hurdle for the program to rebound from was last week's 32-31 loss to Shelbyville, which eliminated the team from playoff contention for the first time since 2019.
Coach Matt Turner has always talked about the need to burn the ship in the Warren County football program. It can be bouncing back quick from a bad practice rep, needing to regroup after losing a matchup in a game or - as has been the case too often this year - moving on after a tough loss.
After Friday night latest heartbreak, the Pioneers have now lost three games by one point. Warren County suffered similar fates - where its opponent scored a touchdown and converted a two-point play in the final minute - against DeKalb County and White County to start the year. Speechless and heartbroken are two words I equate to those three games.
Losing is no fun, but losing in that fashion is the worst. The players were visibly dejected after another battle gone awry in the last minute. The fans sat stunned. The coaching staff talked about rallying and coach Turner, as always, was left looking to burn the ship so the program can keep heading in the right direction.
The Pioneers don't have look hard for motivation this week. It's senior night THursday against Franklin County and nearly two dozen players will be under the lights at Nunley Stadium for the last time. Before we get a chance to join them on the sideline Thursday, I wanted to take a look back at the 'Good, Better and Best,' Shelbyville.
As always, Douglas and Lanier Agency is our sponsor of the 'Good, Better and Best.'
Good - Adapting to change
As you get into the meat of the season, a lot of times you will see an abundance of injuries which forces lineup changes. This has been a problem the Pioneers have had to deal with all year. When this happens, you must adapt and get new players ready to play.
Isaiah Robledo is a freshman who has seen a good amount of time on the field this year, but this past week was the first time he was playing alongside another freshman, Adrian Harris, on defense. Although this is a tough position to be in, they seemed to handle the pressure well.
Also, Lukas Bernhardt had been out for several weeks and was able to return to action for the Pioneers last Friday. The Pioneers should also have Alex van Vuuren back this week as well.
It's not easy having a shuffling lineup, but the Pioneers still were able to put the pieces together well enough in Shelbyville to build double-digit advantages twice and also take a lead in the final five minutes after the Golden Eagles had rallied to tie the game at 24-24.
Hopefully the experience being built by younger players right now will pay dividends down the road.
Better - Ball Security
Throughout the year the Pioneers have struggled at times with ball security - whether that be on the ground, in the air, or on special teams. On Friday, the Pioneers only gave the ball up once. This is a positive as ball security has cost Warren County a few times throughout the season. The Pioneers were able to hold onto the ball during kickoffs, punts, and on offense.
Playing nearly turnover-free football helped the offense pile up 31 points, the most points the team has scored since getting 34 on opening night in Smithville. In an offense that relies a lot on slight of hand and trying to get the ball to people on the move, it's big that the Pioneers have been able to keep it off the ground lately.
Warren County ended up winning the turnover battle 2-1 against Shelbyville. Even better, the Pioneers turned both of their takeaways (one an interception by Nate Elrod and another a fumble caused by Braylon Grayson and picked up by PJ Truax) into points. Elrod's INT set up a field goal and Truax's recovery set up a touchdown that put the Pioneers up 10-0 early.
Best- Special Teams
The special teams crew had a heck of a game Friday night. Shelbyville tried an onside kick two different times, but weren’t able to convert as Aiden Miller was able to catch the ball with no hesitation and get to the ground. Miller's big-time plays - both on high bounces where the lineman had to go up in the air in traffic to come down with the ball - set the Pioneers up with great field position both times.
Brayan Holguin only punted once, but he got it into the endzone, so Shelbyville could not return it. Holguin barely missed out on pinning the ball at the 1 yard line as it hit right before the goal line, but bounced into the endzone before any Pioneers could get down the field to potentially keep it out.
Also, Beckham Scott hit all four extra points on the night and added a 31 yard field goal. Scott has now hit three field goals in the last three games and has connected on 18 XPs.
In the return game, Nate Elrod was able to put the Pioneers in good position with a 17 yard return and Connor Williams, getting his first real varsity action, had a 10-yard return to near midfield on one of Shelbyville's short kickoffs..
The Pioneers looked the best they have all year on special teams in Shelbyville!
Be sure to come out and support Squad 54 and the seniors Thursday night vs. Franklin County. The game starts at 7pm and it is blackout night! If you can’t make it to the game, be sure to tune in to Facebook live to see all the up to date information provided by Ansley Mullican Murphree and Trevor Evans! Our sponsor for the game will be Coffee Bank and Trust!