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Pioneers end season in Lebanon

Alex van Vuuren scrambles in Friday's game (Painted Barn Media)

Friday night was the end of a long season for Squad 54. The Pioneers ended their season at 1-9 following a loss to the Lebanon Blue Devils 28-7.

It was a tale of two halves for coach Matt Turner and his squad. The Pioneers tied the game at 7-7 midway through the second quarter on Braylon Grayson's 3-yard run, but the tie didn't last long. Lebanon answered quickly, with Noah Sandifur hitting the afterburners down the sideline on a 90 yard kickoff return to make it a 14-7 going into the break.

In the second half, Lebanon QB Jaylen Abston showed off his cannon of an arm. The senior dual threat quarterback totaled 199 yards and two touchdowns, two coming in the second half when the Blue Devils pulled away. Abston hit his tight end Jack Clinard in the corner all alone late in the third third quarter to make it a two-score game, then connected on a 30-yard deep ball to Chasten Dickson in the fourth to put it away.

Abston has 174 of his yards through the air on 12-of-17 passing and added 25 yards on six carries. Sean Heath led the Lebanon ground game with 15 carries for 82 yards, while Key Crowell had a 52-yard TD catch on a short screen that he turned into points in the first quarter.

Warren County couldn't keep pace offensively, despite Alex van Vuuren and Nate Elrod forming a lethal duo early. Van Vuuren, a linchpin for the program going forward, hit Elrod four times for 72 yards in the first half, including a long ball down the sidelines on fourth down to set up Grayson's score.

Lebanon was also called for pass interference twice trying to stop Elrod, who ended up finishing the game with 77 yards receiving.

Grayso finished his final game with 34 yards on the ground and on touchdown on 12 carries as well as adding one grab for 29 yards Grayson also moved into moved into the top 20 in the nation on tackles with a career-high 26 stops against the Blue Devils.

The Pioneers could never get a rally started late, which ultimately ends the season, but for Turner it's bigger than one football game. After the game, coach Turner talked about the types of people his players will be in the future.

“These young men are the toughest guys in that high school,'' said Turner. “They've put themselves out there and been vulnerable knowing it's not easy.”

Pioneer Creed is a term Turner has used a lot during his time when talking about his former players putting back into the program. He welcomed the 2022 seniors into that group right after the game Friday.

“These young men are gonna be great husbands and fathers, and be very successful,” said Turner. “Levi Melton, Braylon Grayson, Nate Elrod, I mean I can go all the way down the list. They have given everything they got to Warren County and it's not easy. People don't realize it’s not an easy task to come out and play 6A schools. This is their legacy now and they are going to raise their kids to keep pumping this program up which is what Pioneer Creed I talk about is.”

For the Pioneer staff there is little offseason. “We are gonna hit the hall recruiting to grow the program,” said Turner after the season ending loss. “We'll just go back to the grind and make it fun.”

The Warren County Sports Authority would like to thank Cory Prince and Prince HVAC for being this week's game sponsor.

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