Pioneers ready for senior night
The Pioneers season so far hasn’t gone like anyone could have planned it. Three losses by one point in the same season is something nobody around the program has ever seen before in any of their time around the game and is a first in the 54 history of Warren County High School football.
Coach Matt Turner isn’t letting that get in the team's head right now though as Warren County still has two games on the schedule this year. The first is Thursday against the Franklin County Rebels.
The Rebels come to town for senior night, where Coach Turner and his staff will honor 23 seniors before the game. “I'm so proud of all these seniors and what they've put into this program. The group next year will have big shoes to fill,” said Turner when asked about this year's graduating class.
Franklin County is sitting at 6-2 in the standings, good enough for third in the Region 6-5A standings. Squad 54 is coming off a loss to one of its Region 3-6A opponents, Shelbyville, by a score of 32-31 after a last second touchdown and 2 point conversion. The loss eliminates the Pioneers from playoff contention, but didn't take away the team's spirit for trying to copmete and finish strong.
“The team has responded well this week,” said Turner. “With two games left, they know they have an opportunity to finish 3-7 and I've been talking to them about finishing the right way so they can talk about how they played and how they finished and not just giving in.”
This week has been a little different for Turner and his guy as the game will be played on Thursday due to shortage of referees. It's just another thing to test the group in what seems like a season full of challenges and obstacles.
“The short week has thrown us off a little bit. We just kind of condensed some of our practice stuff but it's also allowed us to stay focused," said Turner. “The changeup has kind of been nice and the kids have responded well to it even though it's been a quick week, especially celebrating the seniors.”
Franklin County is a team that has talent all over the field - “They're a dang good football team and they got a lot of the same kids. I don't think they lost a lot from last year,'' said Turner. When these two teams faced off last year, Franklin County ultimately got the 24-17 victory but coach Turner knows his team is better than what is showed last October.
“Last year, we uncharacteristically played badly in the first half and we looked better in the second but we dug ourselves too deep at that point,'' said Turner.
The Rebels are led by junior QB CJ Seals and senior twin brothers Nashawn and Na’zaiyah Holman. Through the air, Seals has racked up 1,233 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions on 86-of-164 passing. The Holmans have done most of their damage on the receiving end of things - NaShawn has racked up 23 catches for 272 yards and three touchdowns and Na’zaiyah has added 399 yards of his own on 27 catches for six touchdowns.
Defensive coordinator Camron Bond knows his unit has been through it this season emotionally, but will need to keep grinding against of tough opponent.
“It’s been tough. Losing again the way we did by one point for the third time this year really makes you question yourself and the things you’re doing as a coach," said Bond. "There’s no magic potion, we just have to keep working and learn how to finish out games. I hate it for the kids. To have that happen once is tough but to go down that way three times in the same season is unheard of.
Bond continued, “Franklin County’s offense looks like a well oiled machine. They return just about everyone from last year, so they put a lot of experience on the field. Their O-line plays really physical up front - Those guys get after it. They have a lot of talented athletes on the perimeter with an accurate QB who does a really good job of distributing the ball to play makers. Defensively, we will have our hands full Thursday night."
Warren County's offense is welcoming back Alex van Vuuren, who has been out since homecoming after taking a big hit to the head and being carted off the field. When vanVuuren has been the signal caller this season, the Pioneer offense has shown more versatility and an ability to stretch the field with Nate Elrod out at receiver.
Offensive coordnator Donnie Harris knows it’s not gonna be easy to move the ball against the Rebels though. “They will get after you - they're gonna load the box and force you to make plays,” said Harris, who knows his team just has to execute when it matters come Thursday night. “We've got to keep minimizing our mistakes and then we've got to execute and make plays in crucial situations like converting on 3rd and 4th down and scoring when we get in the red zone.”
Squad 54 is ready to come out and give Pioneer Nation a show on Thursday night so be sure to come support these seniors one last time at Nunley Stadium. If you can't make it to the game be sure to follow along on Twitter and Facebook Live brought to you by Coffee Bank and Trust -Big shoutout to them for their continued support of the WCSA and Pioneer Athletics throughout the season.