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Warren headed in right direction

VINCENT — Friday’s football game between Warren and Williamstown will ultimately go down as a loss for the Warriors.

In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s possible the game will be looked at as a turning point for the program.

Williamstown, a perennial W.Va. Class A football powerhouse, got everything it could handle from Warren. On the game-deciding play in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the Yellowjackets came up with an interception in the end zone to seal the Warriors’ fate.

The thing is, this game could have been decided much sooner. Williamstown held leads of 26-17 and and 33-20 in the fourth quarter, which for Warren teams of the past may have seemed like too much to overcome.

However, this year’s Warren squad, led by a high-powered offense, never surrendered and gave themselves a chance to win. The ball didn’t bounce their way at the end, but that’s just the way football goes sometimes. This game showed signs the Warriors are headed in the right direction.

“These kids, hopefully they realize we’ve made tremendous strides as a program,” said first-year Warren head coach Matt Kimes after the game. “They’ve set the foundation for it. We’ll continue to build. We’ve got three games left and we’ll see if we can win them all.”

Entering this season, Warren had won just five games total in the previous five seasons, including a pair of brutal 0-10 years in 2017 and 2015.

Kimes knew about the program’s struggles when he accepted job, but wasn’t scared. He was confident he could help turn things around.

“We will continue to focus on not only building a program but building a culture that the entire community will be proud of and a team that will contend in southeastern Ohio,” Kimes said back in February when he was introduced.

The Warren players appear to have bought in to what Kimes and his staff are preaching. They are hungry, driven and talented.

In recent years, the program had learned to deal with losing. This year, there’s a different mindset. Players were understandably emotional after the Williamstown loss, wondering what they could have done differently to change the outcome. Kimes said his players have worked hard to change the culture at Warren, and when that hard work doesn’t result in a win, it’s supposed to hurt.

“I told the kids, ‘This one is going to sting,’ Kimes said. “It’s supposed to. If you invest this much into it and you’re not upset at the end, something’s wrong. They left it all on the field and that’s all we can ask as coaches.

“It just hurts. This one hurts.”

At 4-3, Warren has a shot at the team’s first winning season since 2009 when they went 7-3. There’s plenty of talent to make that happen.

Junior quarterback Kurt Taylor leads the Mid-Ohio Valley in nearly every passing statistic. Senior leader Brandon Simoniette and talented junior Evan Gandee form one of, if not the, top receiving duo in Ohio, as both players are on pace for 1,000 yards. Junior Josh Welch gives the Warriors another option in the passing game at tight end and is also a talented pass rusher. Senior Thomas Miller is the heart and soul of the defense.

The Williamstown loss may hurt for awhile. But when the Warriors take the field at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Belpre, you can bet they’ll shake it off and be ready to go.

They’re on a mission to change the narrative at Warren, and they’re headed in the right direction.

Jordan Holland is an associate sports editor for The Marietta Times. He can be reached at (304) 485-1891 ext. 256.

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