Coach Matt Turner and the Pioneers can’t seem to catch a break this season. Squad 54 was stunned Friday night in yet another heartbreaker, falling to Shelbyville 32-31 after a last-second, 2-point conversion sealed the Golden Eagle victory. It's the team's third one-point loss of the season.
The loss pushes Warren County's record to 1-7 (0-3 in region play) and also ends the team's playoff dreams. Even if the team defeats Lebanon in a couple weeks, Shelbyville (or Cookeville) will own the tiebreaker for fourth place. The Golden Eagles and Cavaliers are scheduled to play in Week 10.
The Pioneers came out of the gates last week firing on all cylinders, especially in the run game as senior leaders Nate Elrod and Braylon Grayson both had big games on the ground. Grayson had a game-high 129 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, while Elrod added 123 yards and one touchdown of his own on 11 carries.
The first quarter was a defensive battle as neither team could crack the scoreboard after three drives apiece. In the 2nd quarter, it didn’t take long for Warren County to jump ahead after an interception by Elrod gave the Pioneers prime starting field position. The drive stalled out at the Golden Eagle 9 yard line after a penalty on 4th and 1, so Beckham Scott got the scoring going as he nailed a 31 yard field goal to give Warren County a 3-0 lead with 7:31 to go in the half.
The Pioneers took advantage of some mistakes by the Golden Eagles, including a fumble that led to a Grayson touchdown run to make it 10-0 in favor of the visitors. After Shelbyville got on the board when Jake Preston found Miciah Threatt in the endzone from 2 yards out on a fourth down, a short kick by Shelbyville gave the Warren County offense prime field position again.
Elrod called his own number, scrambling 49 yards for a touchdown. It was a huge lift for the group as Squad 54 was looking poised for a victory at halftime, leading 17-7.
On the first drive of the third quarter, the Pioneer defense held the Golden Eagles to a field goal with 8:02 in the quarter, making it 17-10. It was around that time where a little bit of fatigue started to creep in for the Pioneers.
"In the third quarter, our pace slowed down a little more than I would’ve liked,” said coach Turner. “These guys over here on the sideline are the toughest kids out of 1,800 in that school and maybe that played a part down the stretch but we can only be in so good of shape.”
The Warren County offense continued to lean on the ground and pound style of offense they had used all night as they extended the lead 24-10 when PJ Truax ran over some Golden Eagles on a 14 yard scamper into the endzone.
Shelbyville then rattled off two quick scores - one late in the 3rd and another midway through the 4th knotting the game at 24 with 4:31 to play.
The Pioneers offense got the ball back and took the lead in just two plays. After a one-yard gain, Grayson hit the afterburners on the next snap, leaving all the Golden Eagles in the dust on a 64 yard touchdown run making it 31-24 with 3:35 to play.
It proved to be too fast because Shelbyville marched 65 yards in the final minutes behind a tough balanced attack that featured a good mix of run and pass. The Golden Eagles delivered the dagger with a 7 yard touchdown pass on fourth down and a 2 point conversion that ultimately sealed the deal.
The frustration of this year, which saw Warren County start the season with losses on last-second two-point plays in Smithville and Sparta, could be seen on all the Pioneer faces after the game.
“I told the guys that the man upstairs has obviously got something greater in store for this team,” said Turner after the heartbreaking loss. “I’ve always said a life without adversity ain’t worth living so I’m preaching to them to keep that chin up and chest out and we are gonna finish strong.”
The Pioneers will host Franklin County on Thursday this week due to a shortage of referees this week for senior night at Nunley Stadium.
We want to thank Friday night's game sponsor Adam Wood with Farm Bureau Insurance for his continued support of Pioneer athletics and the WCSA. Be sure to call Adam for all your insurance needs.