By TREY WILLIAMS
Daniel Boone junior running back Charlie Cole missed last year’s blowout loss to Science Hill with an injury. This year, he hurt the Hilltoppers’ pride.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Cole made up for lost time Friday, rushing 26 times for a Tipton Stadium-record 322 yards and three touchdowns while helping the Trailblazers stun Science Hill, 35-28. He scored on runs of 80 and 85 yards after the Hilltoppers’ Drew Morrison had twice tied the score with TDs in the final 12:58.
Science Hill overcame a 14-point deficit to beat Boone 19-14 when Cole was a freshman.
“We were winning by 14 again this year,” Cole said, “and we pulled it out whenever I said, ‘It’s not happening again. … I’m here to win this game.’”
A big game from Cole, who is equal parts strength, speed and determination, wasn’t a surprise. Before being hamstrung by an injury the majority of his sophomore season, Cole became Boone’s first freshman to exceed 1,000 yards rushing in a season. His father (Charlie) rushed for 1,000-plus yards in 1991 and played at Emory & Henry, and East Tennessee State Head Coach Randy Sanders is his great uncle.
But a Boone victory caught seemingly everyone, save for the Boone players and coaches, by surprise. After all, Science Hill won 63-6 last year in Gray and hadn’t dropped a decision in the series since David Crockett head coach Hayden Chandley played for coach Jeremy Jenkins’ Trailblazers in 2010.
“That’s what’s great about football,” Jenkins said. “Our kids believed all week. We challenged our kids to get better in the line of scrimmage and I thought we did tonight. We really challenged Charlie to run more physical and drive through the first guy and then when he makes it through the line of scrimmage, look to make the move and go instead of trying to run over somebody. … Charlie, right now, is really running hungry.
“Two years ago we were in the same spot up 14 and kind of just let it slip away. Tonight I thought our kids really persevered and took it over as far as physically at the line of scrimmage. Ethan Good does a great job with our line and really did a good job of getting ‘em going.”
Cole said upsetting Science Hill was more exciting than winning at rival David Crockett to seal a playoff berth when he rushed for 192 yards as a freshman in 2016.
“I feel like this is a better feeling,” Cole said, “because this team was supposed to beat us – apparently in the papers by quite a bit.”
Several times it appeared Science Hill would rally to escape with a victory. Cole’s 2-yard touchdown leap and two TD runs by quarterback Easton Harrell gave Boone a 21-7 halftime lead. Harrell, who rushed for 167 yards, ran for a 99-yard TD that gave Boone a 21-7 lead with 57 seconds left in the first half.
“Coach called it: quarterback run to the right,” Harrell said. “And my two up-backs – I mean they just did a perfect job on blocking and then I had a seam and then I just took off as fast as I could.”
Preston Miller made a diving interception at the Daniel Boone 1-yard line on the previous play.
“Preston makes the interception and then we’re just trying to get it out of there,” Jenkins said. “And then he just busted loose and was gone. A great job by our guys up front. We had five sophomores up front at times in there.
“We’re getting really solid quarterback play. We lost a good one last year (Noah Shelton). Easton’s doing a good job of leading our guys and fighting me on the side wanting to play defense.”
Cole was like a boxer working the body most of the contest before landing a couple of big punches late. He piled up yards after contact, keeping his legs churning for four quarters. And there were times late in the game when you couldn’t help but wonder if Science Hill defenders couldn’t tackle him or didn’t want to.
Perhaps most impressively, Cole’s record night came against a defense designed to stop him by crowding the line of scrimmage and daring Boone to pass.
Cole credited Logan Rivers, Peyton Nickles and the offensive line with effective blocking. Harrell also noted Nickles’ blocking.
Indeed, Boone’s work in the trenches was solid. But Cole was arguably the most physical player on the field.
“He’s a horse,” exasperated Science Hill Coach Stacy Carter said. “He’s a good running back. He’s a hard-nosed kid and he’s stronger than everybody on the field. And we couldn’t catch him.”
The Trailblazers host Morristown East on Friday. It’s the first of five straight Region 1-5A games.
“I’m just really proud of our kids and proud of our program to come up here and beat them away from home,” Jenkins said. “Coach Carter does a great job and I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his program. … This can really jump-start us for the second half of our conference season. But we can’t be satisfied.”