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Turner, Pioneers prepare for season of uncertainty

By: James Clark -- Reporter for the Southern Standard

WCHS football coach Matt Turner says it will be a balancing act to keep players safe while also preparing for the season-opener Aug. 21 in Smithville.

Eli Cantrell and the Pioneer football team have been given the green light to resume full-contact practice after Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order No. 55 on Friday.

Warren County High School football coach Matt Turner says the start of football season is going to be a “chaotic and unsettling time” as coaches work to keep athletes safe and play as many games as possible during a pandemic.

“I think you’re going to see coaches scrambling to get games because they’re allowed to play but for whatever reason their opponent can’t play,” said Turner. “There’s going to be a lot more communication between coaches and schools than there ever has before.”

The Pioneers had been ramping up practice, but had not had any full contact prior to Gov. Bill Lee signing his executive order on Friday. 

Turner says practice will be different with coronavirus concerns, but he also realizes he must get his team ready to play in three weeks and that only comes from hitting and tackling.

“As a coaching staff, we can only control what we can control,” said Turner. “We have to adapt and take advice from other people, our Director of Schools Grant Swallows and our athletic director Todd Willmore. We have to work to keep our kids safe, while at the same time preparing them as best we can to play football.”

It’s in the early stages, but it appears school districts across the state are going to adopt different approaches when it comes to handling sports amid COVID concerns. Turner worries that will create an uneven playing field.

“Shelby County is urging there not to be contact,” said Turner. “Henry County has postponed contact and Davidson County is doing the same thing. To me, that creates a fairness issue. One county can do things that another county can’t. Who knows what it’s going to look like by the time kickoff rolls around.”

So far there have been no reports of a Warren County High School athlete contracting coronavirus. Other areas haven’t been so fortunate.

South-Doyle High School in the Knoxville area reported Friday a member of its football coaching staff has tested positive for COVID-19. That coach and four other members of the football coaching staff are to be quarantined for 14 days, the school said in an announcement.

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