Simmons Says - Good, Better, Best


My dad once drew my ire while sitting around the lunch table at Mud Bums. We were talking about a sports story I had recently completed and he asked, “how did you slant it?” It threw me for a loop – not because news can’t be slanted (it was often where I worked), but because I write sports. There aren’t many ways to slant a sports story – you report the score and how the teams got to that final score.

Over the years though, he’s not the only one who feel my tone can be either very positive or extremely negative. It usually analyzed the most when I’m writing about football. The funny thing is, it has been interpreted both ways in a short span of time.

Before what became Tom Moore’s last season at Warren County, I was writing stories which drew so much appreciation that the booster club asked if I would speak to the team before the season opener against DeKalb County. I politely declined, particularly when I told Moore about the offer and he immediately went to contact the booster club about it.

At that time, the booster club thought I was being so positive about the team that it should be shared in front of the Pioneers. I’ll be honest, I wanted no business with talking in front of the team – and still don’t. I’ve been in those locker rooms and I know not a single kid is thinking, “I wonder what the sports guy would say right now?”

Match that with my natural fright of speaking in front of people and it would probably be the worst motivational speech of all time. I don’t see me delivering any Al Pacino “Game of Inches” speeches, channeling my inner Denzel so people will “Remember the Pioneers” or even get rolling like Bluto firing up the Deltas.

Still, it was nice to know people appreciated the writing. It was really funny to me because, just six months later, the tone was remarkably different.

When Matt Turner took the job and held his first parent meeting, one of the questions was, “How do we get Jeff Simmons to write positively about the Pioneers?”

Had I been there, I could’ve answered it pretty succinctly by quoting the legendary Al Davis – “Just win, baby.” Before the season, I was positive, but after a two-win campaign I was suddenly negative. Yeah, sure.

All that came flooding back to me this weekend when I started forming another “Good, Better and Best,” in my head about the Spring Fling football celebration Saturday at Nunley Stadium. Seeing so many great things happening for the Pioneers – not to mention the nearly 200 kids running around playing flag – reminded me how far we’ve come in such a short period.

I’m happy to celebrate it and I hope Pioneer Nation is too. Here we go:

Good – What more can be said about the 180 the Pioneers have pulled under coach Turner the last two years? I don’t think anybody is going to forget the 2020 team and how they rallied the county during a special season. As impressive as the Pioneers were last year, starting 8-0 and achieving a top 10 state ranking, I think Turner’s best coaching job may be this season.

QB Nate Elrod, wing Jaythan Pleasant and kicker Beckham Scott could all play big roles for WCHS this Fall (Painted Barn Media photos)

 

If Warren County can avoid the steep drop off that happened the last time football had a winning season (1990 – 8-3, 1991 – 0-10, 1992-99 – 16-64), then Turner may have really built something that could sustain for years to come. As WCMS coach Ben Matheney said Saturday, his numbers have risen because of last year’s success and there’s no doubt that the Pioneer Youth Football League benefitted from Turner revitalizing the big squad.

Sure, there is plenty of work to be done between now and kick off against DeKalb County Aug. 20, but at least Saturday showed the Pioneers are on their way to finding some playmakers while replacing nine starters on each side of the ball. I left Nunley Stadium very optimistic that Warren County could be a factor in every game this fall, something that seemed a little farfetched when so many starters were taking off their pads for the last time at Mt. Juliet in November.

Better – Speaking of Matheney’s young Pioneers, I’m super happy for the coaching staff at WCMS for finding a way to be persistent and push through what hasn’t been an easy two years on the gridiron. COVID hit the WCMS team hard last season as Matheney couldn’t get out and find kids in the spring.

Without a defining class to hang his hat on, Matheney had to grind away for hoping that small incremental improvements would blow up once a big group of kids finally made the decision to play. It seems like it is happening right now.

Matheney and his staff have over 60 Pioneers out and there are some athletic kids ready to make plays behind an experienced offensive line. I don’t want to jinx the team, but I’m 99.9 percent confident the school’s losing streak is getting snapped this fall.

Best – How could the best thing Saturday not be the HUGE turnout of kids for the flag league? Just two years ago, we had just over 50 kids playing youth football in town, albeit that was tackle football. Now, Turner and his army of coaches had over 200 kids participate in the three-week Spring Fling, which culminated with Saturday’s flag games at Nunley Stadium.

Turner will tell you that Saturday was just the start. The league can – and will – grow in the coming months and years, including adding pads and tackling. It won’t happen overnight, but what Turner’s been able to accomplish in such a short period of time with the youth league is already very impressive.

Most people talk about building from the ground up. When it comes to football in town, it took the top team to win for people to really believe, but it’s already starting to trickle down. Just one look Saturday showed there are kids who want to be Pioneers someday.

More importantly, they want to be winners.

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