Don’t miss the chance to get a sneak peek of the Pioneers. Warren County will be holding its spring game Monday at Nunley Stadium, with kickoff set for 5 p.m.
Coach Matt Turner has dubbed this Red vs. Blue game as the ‘Suds and Rinse’ scrimmage. While there will be no price for admission, Turner does ask that fans bring bottled water or laundry detergent as their entrance pass. Both will go a long way to helping the group this fall.
“We’re excited to be back at Nunley and getting to play in front of our fans. A lot of people ask about how they can help the program and a huge boost would be helping us stock up on water and detergent,” said Turner. “We go through a lot of both during the year. I know our fans are always ready to help out and we’ll hopefully treat them to some good football.”
Turner and the Pioneers moved the game back to give Pioneer Nation a chance to support the Lady Pioneer softball team during its postseason run, but now football is ready to take center stage. Warren County will split up its roster for an extended workout, one that will be limited a little bit on the home turf.
Due to graduation setup, the Pioneers may not have full access to the whole field during Monday’s exhibition. It shouldn’t be too much of an issue though as the Pioneers – split evenly – can still get situational work on half the field.
“If we have to use half the field, we’ll get a chance to work on game-like situations – some quick-change, short-field stuff. We may do some goal line work and other things,” said Turner, who noted that the field was clear when it was painted Sunday afternoon. “This is our last chance to see how far some of our newcomers have come in the spring and what our veterans have improved on. We can throw them into it and see how they react.
“It’ll be a showcase that we hope vaults us into our summer work. It won’t be long until we’re back at Nunley Stadium for the Friday night lights and there’s an opponent on the other side.”
Coach Turner and his staff hope to have at least 50 players in uniform for the workout, though up to 10 more players could be sidelined and miss the scrimmage (either due to injury or vacation). The numbers have been solid all spring for the Pioneers, though Turner is hoping to welcome even more Warren County players when the freshmen arrive in the fall.
The groups are split where players can continue to battle for starting positions instead of putting the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense (the Pioneers, for years, have had two-way starters anyway). Among the position battles to watch is at quarterback.
Senior Nate Elrod is the team’s returning starter, while junior Alex van Vuuren continues to work for reps. Both are interchangeable offensively as they’ve shown the ability and willingness to split out at wide receiver as well. Elrod had 445 yards and five touchdowns last year, while van Vuuren had over 100 rushing yards and a 44-yard TD catch.
Sophomores Creed Adams and Hayven Jones could also get some snaps at QB after splitting reps last fall on the freshman team.
Van Vuuren and Jones will suit up on the Blue team, while Elrod and Adams are leading the Red squad.
At the skill positions, fans can be on touchdown alert anytime the ball goes to dynamic senior playmaker Braylon Grayson (Blue) or speedster Jaythan Pleasant (Red). Grayson is coming off a year where he led the team in receiving, rushing, touchdowns and tackles, while Pleasant averaged 9+ yards per touch while scoring twice.
Upperclassmen Wesley Sherrell, Donathan Lewis and Brayan Holguin will be other offensive weapons for the Blue team, while Jonathan Martinez, Dawson Haley and Andrew Miller will get touches on the Red team.
Turner is hoping to see who can answer the call during live action, including throwing 15 sophomores into the fire Monday.
“Everybody in our region knows Braylon by now and I think Alex and Nate showed what they could do in games last year. Jaythan – people will remember his speed. We have a lot of guys right now who are vying for spots and touches as we look to round out the offense. You can never have enough guys who can make plays,” said Turner.
In the trenches, all eyes will be on Dayton Jernigan as he gets his first reps between the lines since tearing his ACL against Cookeville. Turner has already been excited about his return – “Dayton is looking great and stepping up as a leader,” – and the potential of his line.
“We got stronger in the offseason. It was our focus and the guys bought in. We have guys who definitely look the part and can move people – we just have to find the right mix on Friday nights,” said Turner.
Red team linemen who have been seen game time in the past include Jernigan, Levi Melton, Darius Rippy and the McCormick brothers (Xander and Chandler). Collin Panter, last year’s starting center, Saul Smith and Zack Luck will get the chance to anchor the Blue team line, as will 6-foot-8, 320-pound Will Davis. Davis is a physical marvel in pads who coaches are looking to see take a big step in his second year as a Pioneer.
After Monday’s workout, the Pioneers will be finished with spring work. Coach Turner is hoping to have a freshman camp soon, then the team will jump into summer work, 7-on-7 camps and the anticipated return of Nunley Nights.
Warren County begins the 2022 season Friday, Aug. 19 at DeKalb County. Currently, the Pioneers only have four home games on the schedule, including the first one against Cookeville Sept. 16.
BLUE vs. RED Scrimmage Rosters
(Numbers and teams could change before kickoff)
Players listed as out for Monday (injury/vacation): Jax Patterson, Wyatt Reed, Beckham Scott, Luis Sifuentes, Ethan Stanford, Paten Walker, Aiden Sweeton, Peyton Ernst and Mark Bouldin.