By TREY WILLIAMS
As quickly as Daniel Boone running back Brennan Blair can burst through the middle, his Trailblazers and David Crockett are suddenly streaking in opposite directions.
Blair rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns while leading Boone to a 28-20 upset of Crockett in the 49th annual Musket Bowl on a rainy Friday night at Nathan Hale Stadium.
Crockett (3-2, 7-2), which was undefeated, ranked No. 4 in the state and sailing along toward a second straight Region 1-5A title two weeks ago, lost for the second consecutive week. It was the fourth straight victory for the ‘Blazers (4-1, 5-4), who have an opportunity to clinch Region 1-5A’s No. 2 seed and a home playoff game when they visit Cherokee on Friday.
“Four weeks ago we were 1-4,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “There wouldn’t have been five people in this school up here that’d say we’ve got a chance to host a playoff game. But our kids have really dialed in and played hard.”
Boone’s resurgence has been ignited by Blair. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior was a receiver when star running back Charlie Cole was injured in the second game of the season.
Now, he’s right at home in the backfield. Blair has more than 700 yards rushing during the four-game win streak.
He scored on runs of three, 32, 33 and 55 yards against Crockett. The 55-yarder with 10:30 remaining in the fourth quarter was the game’s final score.
Blair’s eyes glistened with emotion immediately after the triumph.
“I represent this name across my shirt: Boone,” Blair said. “And I do it with a pride. And I just gave everything tonight just to have this win, because they’ve been talking crap all week and it’s been like that since the start of the season. Since Charlie went out: ‘Oh, we’re gonna beat the crap out of you.’ … The Musket is ours.”
Daniel Boone senior defensive back Daniel Lusk made the game’s final tackle at the Boone 5-yard line after quarterback Cade Larkins caught a reverse pass from Donta Hackler. And Lusk had broken up passes in the end zone on two of the previous three plays against the talented Larkins, who passed for 325 yards.
But Lusk was most expressive while discussing the play of Blair.
“He’s so good,” Lusk said. “He’s so explosive. His cuts are so quick. He’s just insane.”
Blair daringly dashed to daylight, and he had some openings through the middle to utilize.
“Matt Masters – that’s one heck of a center,” Blair said. “Aaron Ford blocked his butt off tonight. Peyton Ford blocked his butt off, too. They’re all go-getters, man.”
The rain wasn’t ideal for Crockett’s passing game and the Pioneers appeared to come up a ruling or two short on fumbles. But the Pioneers appeared to be their own worst enemy for the second straight week against an opponent, Crockett coach Hayden Chandley says, that appeared to – collectively – be a bit hungrier.
Crockett muffed a punt stopping Boone quickly on the game’s opening drive, and then fumbled on its first drive to give the Trailblazers excellent field position for their second straight possession. And consequently, Boone had a 14-0 lead after Blair scored from 32 yards out with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
Crockett’s only semblance of a ground game came from quarterback Cade Larkins. And while he isn’t statuesque, you don’t want a player who’s passed for more than 10,000 yards repeatedly running into linebackers and safeties.
“We just weren’t able to establish any ground game,” said Chandley, who was part of his first game at Boone since playing there as a senior in 2010. “We threw it effectively, but you just can’t turn the ball over four times and expect to beat a good team – and three times in the first half. We were lucky to be down seven points at the half.”
Crockett’s Donta Hackler had 14 catches for 167 yards and made an interception. Prince Kollie had eight catches for 120 yards. Sophomore Brenden Reid rushed for a touchdown and caught a 32-yard TD pass.
Boone safety Preston Miller intercepted Larkins in the end zone with 38 seconds remaining in the first half. And Joe Jones made an interception in the red zone in the second half.
“We really pressed to be the most dominant team – the physical team – for four quarters,” Jenkins said. “We really put it on our kids up front. We knew the conditions – we were gonna be limited with what we could do offensively. I thought our offensive line blocked their tails off. Brennan made some good plays for us offensively. You know, we’re not real flashy. We’re a good team that’s playing really well at the right time.”
Crockett trailed 21-7 when Blair scored from 33 yards out with 5:33 left in the third quarter. But Reid scored twice in the ensuing five minutes – a 47-yard kick return helped set up one of those – to get the Pioneers within 21-20 (a PAT kick was wide right).
“Hats off to Crockett,” Jenkins said. “We knew they were gonna come back. What a great team they are and what great players that they have. But I thought our kids really, really wanted it tonight, you know, more so. We had a great week of preparation. Our coaches did a fantastic job.”
Crockett will host Morristown East on Friday. Barring any upsets (according to standings), a Pioneers victory would secure Region 1-5A’s No. 3 seed. That would set up a return to Knox Central, where Crockett lost to the eventual state champion last year in the quarterfinals.
A Boone victory would lead to it hosting Halls, Gibbs or Seymour in the first round.