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Simmons Says - More must trust Turner's path

Friday night’s atmosphere will be electric at Nunley Stadium. It’s a virtual certainty as long as the weather cooperates. Homecoming will always bring a crowd, one that roots really hard – for at least a half – and goes crazy when the floats are judged.

Here’s an early prediction from the WC Sports Authority – the seniors win. I don’t have any inside information, just going off the gut instinct that the seniors usually win if they spend any time on their float. From the snapchats and other pictures I’ve seen, I think everybody is spending time working on floats – and have been for a month.

What I would have rather seen for the last month was those armies of people grinding to stuff crinkled paper into metal focusing their attention to learning the Pistol-T. Perhaps they could’ve traded out interpreting the designs of the most creative parent in the grade into studying film and getting in some weightlifting before a big game.

There’s no question coach Matt Turner and his staff would’ve welcomed dozens more players back in the fall if they were willing to put in the time and focus to play football. Instead, it seems like Warren County is sliding back to the days where it’s easier to yell encouragement (or insults) from the stands than it is to go out on the field and show your stuff.

I get it – you can’t throw smoke bombs, pop confetti and ditch by the third quarter if you’re in pads. You got to stick it out all four quarters, win or lose. I know all too well how easy it is to just sit in the stands and watch the Pioneers play as a teenager. I was that same kid.

I’ve told this story many times, but I must bring it up again. I was the kid in high school that coaches would approach in the hall and ask why I’m not playing football (that happens when you’re 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds as a freshman). Even coach Turner, back when he was first starting in Warren County, ran me down in the hallways.

Back then, I justified my reasoning in three ways:

1) I wanted to play quarterback and they wouldn’t let me. Yes, I thought I was Jared Lorenzen (RIP!) and could go play QB at 300 pounds.

2) I didn’t want to put my knees and ankles in harm of being rolled up on down in the trenches.

3) I didn’t want to play for a losing team.

Nowadays, I realize I was just soft and scared. It was easier to sit in the stands and point out the things the Pioneers were doing wrong than go help them fix it. It was more fun to go play tackle football on Sundays with 15-20 of my friends out in Vervilla – where I knew I could win – than try and fail against tougher competition on Friday nights.

So, when I try to encourage kids now to go out and play football – and goodness knows I see 10-15 kids every Friday in the stands that could help – I know it’s hypocritical to expect them to do something I wouldn’t. Still, I hope they will because the things this program has going for it now were not present in my high school days.

When I was in school, the Pioneers were 1-39. I saw the team win the first game of my sophomore year, then go on to lose 29 straight before I graduated. Warren County was 2-18 in the two years before I entered school and 0-10 the year after I left – so it was a 3-67 combined record while I was a teenager.

There wasn’t much hope then. There is plenty of hope for the Pioneers now.

The 2020 team proved how a group could come together in Warren County and do something special. Groups of kids coming up are going to play football because they remember watching CJ Taylor dive into the endzone for game-winning TDs. Big guys aren’t going to run from playing line anymore after seeing Douglas Wells and company taking syrup shots after pancaking opponents. Multi-sport athletes should try their hand at football after seeing the Holders come from baseball and earn football scholarships.

That’s another thing - Cody Robinson, Krojhn Calbert and CJ Taylor (among so many others) have shown you can get to the next level by being a Pioneer. We’re talking big-time football at the next level too.

Most of all, teenagers now have Matt Turner. And they should take advantage of that. From the outside, he may look like a scary guy – and he can be – but he’s the kind of coach any kid should want to play for if they want to get better.

It’s not just getting better athletically either. Turner is turning these young kids into better young men. He’s teaching them how to overcome adversity, set and accomplish goals and stick through things even when it isn’t going their way.

When people come home to watch the Pioneers Friday, I hope they continue to see just how hard the Pioneers are fighting to change four decades of perception of the football program. They took a big step forward last year, but it won’t be changed in one season – or by one man.

It’s going to take players buying into what Turner is preaching. It’s going to take kids coming out and playing, even with no guarantee of great success. It’s going to take the community showing up for games with the thoughts of affecting the outcome instead of watching floats.

Basically, it’s going to take everybody. I know there is one man who is 100 percent bought in on the sideline and I’m buying what he is selling.

I hope more find their way to coach Turner and this football program going forward. Maybe before it’s all said and done, homecoming games won’t be the highlight of the season at Nunley Stadium. Perhaps it will be playoff games in front of sold-out crowds.

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