By Trey Williams
David Crockett’s civil war cost it some firepower in the Musket Bowl, where Daniel Boone set its sight on the Trailblazers football program’s first-ever league championship.
Despite an interim head coach in Nick Lingerfelt at the helm and two of its top players — Prince Kollie and John Kollie — sitting out a half due to the unrest rooted in the suspension of first-year head coach Gerald Sensabaugh, the Pioneers offered much resistance against the preseason Region 1-5A favorite.
But Boone got two touchdown runs from sophomore running back Charlie Cole and one a piece from senior quarterback Noah Shelton and senior receiver C.J. Carter to outlast the Pioneers 28-21 at Nathan Hale Stadium.
A year after beating David Crockett in a do-or-die task to clinch a playoff berth, Boone’s second straight win in the series clinched its first regular season title.
“We’d never won the conference here — never,” said Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins, whose Trailblazers improved to 5-0 in the league and 7-2 overall.
The title steadily took shape over a two-year span after the ‘Blazers stumbled to a 1-9 record in 2015.
“It’s huge for our seniors to come from two years ago when they were 1-9 to this to be conference champions,” Jenkins said. “We talked it about it before the game … you know, what they have accomplished to get to this spot. … If you’d told me two years ago — after Crockett beats us here 40-26 — that in two years we’d be conference champs, you know, we had a lot of work to do.
“But our kids really bought in. Our coaching staff did a great job with ‘em. And we got our kids prepared each week.”
Crockett (3-2, 5-4) scored first when Cade Larkins passed to fellow sophomore Donta Hackler for a 26-yard TD on fourth down.
“Hats off to Crockett,” Jenkins said. “To go through what they’ve gone through and come out and give the fight — we knew they would. It shows the kind of people they’ve got down there. They’re gonna fight you.”
Cole answered with a 59-yard TD run. Shelton gave Boone the lead for good late in the first quarter when he reached the end zone from 74 yards out.
Carter scored a 17-yard TD on a sweep out of the Wildcat formation in the second quarter to give the Trailblazers a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Pioneers cut their deficit to seven points when Zeb Holland caught a 27-yard pass from Larkins in the third quarter.
“The last three weeks we really had not been tested as much as we had that game,” Jenkins said. “We knew we were gonna get their best shot, skill wise, going against them, except for Science Hill, that’s probably the best skill we’ve seen all year.
“We made enough plays defensively to get the job done. We finally got a little bit of a pass rush inside. Charlie got us a good rush there at the end. … It was just a great, hard-fought win for our guys.”
Cole pushed the Trailblazers’ cushion back to two TDs midway through the third quarter when he scored on a 9-yard run that he’d helped set up with a 44-yard rush.
“Offensively, we didn’t do what we usually do — make long drives,” Jenkins said. “We scored on big plays. We’ve not really done that a whole lot this year. They did a good job taking C.J. away, but I thought Charlie — being his first game back — had a big input for us.”
Devante Boozer got the Pioneers back within a touchdown when he scored from five yards out with 2:29 left in the third quarter. The Pioneers couldn’t complete the rally, but the players – forgetting the controversy surrounding Sensabaugh for four quarters – triumphed in the eyes of their interim head coach.
“Man, I’m telling you, 28-21 — I don’t have words to explain it,” Lingerfelt said. “I don’t have any words to explain it. There wasn’t a loser tonight. Those kids gave us everything they’ve got.
“This community came together. Our kids came together. Yeah, they got the Musket Bowl. But I tell you what, our kids — they taught me something this week.”
Crockett’s last hurrah was turning the ball over on downs after driving inside the Boone 25-yard line with four-plus minutes remaining.
“Hats off to our kids,” Jenkins said. “We made enough plays at the end. I’m really happy for our seniors. I thought our quarterback played well. He didn’t really have a great throwing night. But he got us in and out of some plays. We made just enough plays offensively.
“We were kind of depending on the defense there for a while. … They did a good job of keeping us out there.
“They’re probably the only team so far this that’s really won the time of possession against us.”
Crockett will conclude the regular season on Friday when it hosts Morristown East (3-2, 3-6) while Boone will travel to Cherokee (3-2, 5-4).
“This time of the year you’ve gotta find ways to win a game like that (Musket Bowl),” Jenkins said. “That’s a mark of a good team. We struggled, struggled, struggled, but made enough plays.
“I’m happy for our community. I’m happy for our kids. Now, we’re conference champs. First time that’s happened in school history.
“We need to really build on this next week when we go to Cherokee — a team that’s playing just as hot — and build on that for our playoff run.”
Boone has now won two straight Musket Bowls and 14 of the past 15.