By Trey Williams
Daniel Boone’s football team was hamstrung by fate while its fans were at a fever pitch.
Quarterback Noah Shelton had a viral infection and a 102-degree fever and running back Charlie Cole was resting a pulled hamstring when the Trailblazers hosted the best team on their schedule Friday at Nathan Hale Stadium.
Cole and Shelton didn’t play in Boone’s 63-6 loss to Science Hill, a game that consequently had more of an exhibition feel. But both players should return for the entirety of the regular season’s more important second half. The Trailblazers (1-0, 2-2), picked by the majority of Region 1-5A coaches to win the Mountain East Conference, will finish the season with five straight league games.
As was the case last year, Boone was a drastically inferior team minus Shelton, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior. Mobile, strong-armed and smart (he made a 32 on the ACT), Shelton rushed for 370 yards, passed for 380 and accounted for 13 touchdowns during the Trailblazers’ 3-1 start.
“He’s a very head-smart kid that can do a lot of things,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “We ask a lot of him. He does a good job of getting us in and out of plays. He’s a playmaker. He can beat you with his legs or his arm.”
Cole, who became Boone’s first freshman to rush for at least 1,000 yards when he piled up 1,100 in 2016, has rushed for 460 yards in three games this season.
“He’s a beast,” Shelton said. “When he’s a hundred percent it’s scary to see what he can do. He’s had that nagging hamstring and I know it frustrates him more than it frustrates anybody in the stands or anybody else on the team. He wants to be out there more than anything. He’s got to stretch and keep it limber and I think he’ll be alright.”
Leading receiver C.J. Carter ended up quarterbacking Boone the majority of snaps against Science Hill after backup quarterback Easton Harrell left the game hurting. But all hands are expected to be on deck Friday at Morristown East.
Boone’s defense – prior to the Science Hill game, at least – has been a pleasant surprise during a season in which it had to replace nine of 11 starters. Tommy Kolb leads the team in tackles and fellow linebacker Logan Rivers has been similarly effective.
“Tommy and Logan have both been really good at inside linebacker,” Shelton said.
Shelton also praised defensive backs Colton Adams, Joe Jones and Harrell, as well as defensive linemen Austin Cox, Zach Taylor and two-way lineman Drew Thompson.
“I don’t know how he does it – playing both sides of the trenches,” Shelton said. “They’re all really jelling and it’s really nice to see. It takes a lot of pressure off your offense when your defense is shutting people out or holding them to three points, you know, like Tennessee High and Gate City.”
The offensive line has been productive despite having to replace Justin Turner and Christian Bowman from the 2016 team.
“This group is not quite as big as that bunch was last year,” Jenkins said. “But they’ve done a good job of really meshing together and really getting better each week out there.”
No one can appreciate an offensive line more than a quarterback.
“Offensively, up front, you know, you had Bailey (Presnell), Walker (Burleson) and Drew coming back (as returning regulars),” Shelton said. “Jeremiah (Sullivan) got some playing time last year. I think he’s stepped up. Isaiah Quaintance has stepped up big-time. Guys like James Richardson rolling in and AC (Cox) rolling in a little bit. They’ve really come together as a unit and they’re playing good football.”
Bowman (Austin Peay) and Turner (Union College) are playing in college, an option Shelton will have. But he isn’t certain he wants to play college football, although he’s heard from Eastern Kentucky, Chattanooga and Virginia Military Institute, among others. His suitors include Centre College, an NCAA Division III member near Lexington, Kentucky. Centre’s offensive coordinator, Ben Fox, was a quarterback and valedictorian at Daniel Boone.
“He came down (to a game),” Shelton said. “I got to talk to him for a while. He’s a great guy.”
Of course, Shelton is excited about the remainder of his high school career. Boone’s remaining home games are against Volunteer (Oct. 6) and David Crockett (Oct. 20). Challenging road games remain with Cocke County (Oct. 13) and Cherokee (Oct. 27).
“I think it’s not outlandish to think we could run the table,” Shelton said. “I think it’s extremely reasonable to think that we could go 5-0 and host a playoff game, hopefully host a couple and make a run in the playoffs. But I don’t wanna think about a playoff game when we’ve got Morristown East four days away. It’s about taking every game one game at a time, focusing on what we’ve got to do and staying healthy and being smart.”