If Saturday was a glimpse of the future of Pioneer football, coaches Matt Turner and Ben Matheney have to be happy. Over 125 kids attended the first day of the Pioneer Youth League Spring Fling – a three-weekend event that is looking to build interest in local football.
Coach Turner and coach Matheney, the leader of the WCMS football team, were both on hand, along with many assistant coaches from each staff. They were all blown away by the turnout, which is hopefully a step in the right direction as the duo looks to rebuild the tradition on the gridiron in Warren County.
“When we put out the registration online, it blew up quick,” said Turner. “If you go to Nunley Stadium on a Friday night, you know there are a lot of people in town that love football. Kids are learning that it is a lot of fun to play.”
Matheney added, “Even if some of these kids decide this isn’t for them by the time they get to middle school, I still think it’s great to get them out and let them play now. This is fun and for the kids.”
There were some standouts who the coaches wouldn’t mind putting in pads tomorrow. Kids were throwing long touchdowns, sprinting away from defenders for scores and stepping in front of passes for interceptions. Turner was able to catch plenty of highlights as he moved from field-to-field shouting encouragement.
“We got some players around here. And one of the best things to me was being able to go co-ed and get the girls involved too. This is a game for everybody – we want all kids to be able to come out and find a place,” said Turner.
Before Turner took over the football program in February 2019, the outlook locally was bleak. The Pioneers had just completed a 2-8 season that saw the roster dip to less than 25 players. Participation wasn’t any better with the youth.
In Fall 2018, there were less than 100 kids playing for the WCHS, WCMS and youth football teams from ages 5-18. Seeing over 100 kids come out Saturday, including almost 30 walk-ups in the morning, brought a smile to Turner’s face.
“It’s great. I saw a lot of kids who were being introduced to football for the first time and they enjoyed it,” said Turner. “I know there is always going to be a push to get more advanced and put the pads on. That’s what we are working to with this Spring Fling. This is a building block for the future.”
Kids were divided by age, then went through drills during the first portion of the day. By the end, games were lined up and the kids were able to show their stuff in 7-on-7 flag games.
It wasn’t hard to hear the excitement across the complex, with four games running outside and two more going on in the WCHS indoor facility. Every time there was a touchdown, deafening cheers and thunderous applause followed.
Many Pioneer players, and former Pioneers like Devin Jordan, Dillon Haley, Douglas Wells and Noah Martin, were just as vocal. The players served as on-hand assistants and hype men – leading them to get really into the action when the games were being played.
“Come Monday, I think a few of them will know how I feel when I’m watching practice,” joked Turner during the games. “This is great for our players. They get to see the game like us coaches see it. It can only help them get a great appreciation for their craft and I think the young kids like having our guys there too.”
Another three-hour session is scheduled for Saturday, May 15 at Warren County High School. The workout begins at 9 a.m. Registration is still open for kids, ages 4-12, who want to come out and experience playing football with the Pioneers. The camp will conclude Saturday, May 22 with games at Nunley Stadium – part of a night where the WCMS and WCHS teams will also be showcased with intersquad workouts.
Coach Turner asks any kid who wants to play on May 22 attend at least one of the prior sessions as they will be looking to have assigned rosters for the games at Nunley Stadium.