By Trey Williams
Trite as the notion might be, David Crockett interim head football coach Nick Lingerfelt is convinced that a season-ending four-game losing streak didn’t prevent the Pioneer players from finishing on top in the scoreboard of life.
Crockett scored the most points in program history in a playoff game in last week’s 48-21 first round loss at Halls. The Pioneers scored 20 points in a 42-20 loss to Tennessee High in 2000.
More impressively, the Pioneer players stayed together and voted to continue the season after a promising 5-2 start was followed by first-year head coach Gerald Sensabaugh being suspended after repeatedly criticizing the school system publicly via social media.
The Pioneers, who finished the season 5-6, had three coaches and two coaching staffs during the final five games.
“The lessons that were learned from this season far exceed any lessons that they could have in the classroom,” Lingerfelt said. “They got knocked back down, they got back up. And at the end, our season probably didn’t end the way everybody wanted it to, but those kids got back up and fought until the very last horn sounded.”
Sophomore Cade Larkins passed for two touchdowns – a 20-yarder to Micah Robinson and a 35-yarder to Mark Seidler – and Devante Boozer ran for a 65-yard TD in the loss at Halls. But Halls quarterback Caden Hardin passed for 260 yards and produced TDs.
“Halls was a good team,” Lingerfelt said. “They finished first in that region. I think that they were able to take us away from doing some of the things that we like to do. Up front we had some tough times handling them and their size and their speed on the edge. A defensive end they had – we had some trouble with him.
“The game of football is won up front, especially in the type of offense that we ran. Some of the things we tried to do last week as coaches probably weren’t the best idea. I take responsibility for that.”
The Pioneers have a number of talented underclassmen, but the senior class will certainly leave a void. Lineman Austin Lewis has committed to play at Liberty. Boozer and fellow senior running back Manny Gammon had productive seasons in the backfield, particularly after Prince Kollie and his brother John quit playing while Sensabaugh was suspended.
“Austin’s had a great career,” Lingerfelt said. “The fact that (Boozer) got close to a hundred yards the other night speaks volumes to his character. I think Manny is the epitome of hard work, and hopefully a couple of colleges will take an opportunity and get a good look at him.
“The seniors are a really a good group in the fact that they stuck together through all this. They were able to have Senior Night and play in the Musket Bowl and be a part of the playoffs. And we scored 21 points in the playoffs. I know nobody’s all about moral victories, but they have set the foundation for the returning class for these next couple of years. One of ‘em said after the ballgame, ‘Alright, we scored points in a playoff game. It’s your all’s job to go out and get that first victory next year.’ And hopefully they can turn their focus when they get a new coach into doing that.”
Larkins passed for some 2,900 yards and 20 TDs as a sophomore. Prince Kollie, a freshman, ran for over 200 yards against a good Campbell County team. Junior John Kollie was the leading receiver before not playing the final four games, and he might be a better linebacker. And sophomore receiver Donta Hackler looks like a potential Division I receiver at the college level.
Of course, some worry that a number of Crockett’s promising returners might transfer, depending on who the next head coach is. Lingerfelt doesn’t anticipate any programs actively poaching the Crockett roster.
“I think with what the TSSAA sent out, everybody’s gonna do what’s right and everything,” Lingerfelt said. “The bottom line is they’re all good kids. And you could see the way they finished the season that they grew up with each other.
“They don’t want to go somewhere else. They want to spend – just like me and you and the people we grew up with in high school – that’s who they want to be with. I think they’ll be right back down there on that field in Jonesborough next year and I’m looking forward to seeing it.”