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Pioneer Youth Football coming soon

Pioneer coach Matt Turner is looking to revive youth football locally.

Nunley Stadium is about to open up to a whole new age group.

Starting in May, the Pioneer Youth Football League will begin play in hopes of drawing a new generation to football. Under the leadership of WCHS coach Matt Turner and the help of the community, kids will get the opportunity to train the Pioneer Way.

“Ever since I took over, I have wanted to work on developing our youth program,” said Turner, who took over before the 2019 season and has led WCHS to a 12-9 record over the last two seasons. “We had plans to get this started last year, but COVID stopped everything. It’s been a work in progress – there are a lot people in the community working to make this happen.

“As our league mission statement puts it, this league is to encourage and increase youth football participation by ensuring a safe and positive playing environment for all participants. We want to instill life-long values of teamwork, dedication and a superior work ethic – both in the classroom and on the field.”

The PFL will begin with the Spring Fling – three Saturdays of workouts in May that will culminate with a scrimmage day May 22 that will also include the WCMS and WCHS football teams. The event, which will be free to all participants, is open to boys and girls currently in grades K-6.

Kids will train with the WCHS coaching staff and eventually with volunteer coaches approved by the league. The first two weekends (May 8 and 15) will run from 9 a.m. until noon. Kids will be separated by age groups and will go through drills before playing flag football.

The final day will consist of flag football scrimmages for all age groups, part of a showcase of all football players in Warren County. Times will be determined at a later date.

Turner hopes this introduction to football for many youngsters will be the starting point for the league, which plans to expand competition in the fall.

"The Spring Fling is our way to get interest in football. The first step is getting the kids out - that's no easy task sometimes. We've had success getting more guys out at the high school, we're hopeful we can do the same at the younger levels," said Turner. "We want to really get our enrollment numbers up and bring them back in the fall for what will be a more comprehensive and competitive league."

Turner knows there could be some pushback on purely playing flag football (at least in the Spring Fling), but he’s using the USA Football model in hopes of bringing more kids to the game at a young age.

“We are using this model to develop a youth program that will eventually consist of all styles, including full contact and non-contact. We want to develop a new youth league that will have lasting results for the citizens of Warren County,” said Turner.

During games, teams will start on their own 5 and the first-down marker will be at midfield. Teams can run on most plays, but there will be designated zones (within five yards of the first-down marker and the endzone) where teams have to pass.

“A lot of modern football is passing. We have embraced being a smash-mouth team at the high school and it’s been good for us, but to grow we have to be able to do everything. If we can get kids learning routes trees now and developing the timing between quarterbacks and receivers, it can only help all of our programs going forward,” said Turner.

COVID protocols – as they are updated throughout Tennessee – will be in place at the Spring Fling.

Players will not have to bring flags, but they will need a mouth guard, non-metal cleats or tennis shoes and a water bottle. Players will not wear hard-shell helmets, but will be allowed to wear soft-shell helmets, receiver gloves and similar equipment accessories.

There will be preregistration held online for players, along with in-person registration held on May 8 and 15 at 8:30 a.m. The league will be posting updates throughout April on its social media pages. A coaches certification meeting will also be held before the first day of the Spring Fling for those wishing to help with the league.

It's almost football time in Tennessee once again!

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