By TREY WILLIAMS
David Crockett and Daniel Boone’s football teams are replacing respective quality running backs in Ronquille Joyner and Charlie Cole, but they could be in a rush to move forward when the 2020 season opens Friday.
Crockett returns Notre Dame commitment Prince Kollie to the backfield. He started at running back as a freshman and rushed for 200-plus yards against Campbell County that season before spending the past two years at receiver when Joyner returned from a season-ending injury he sustained Kollie’s freshman year.
Daniel Boone, which will host Christian Academy of Knoxville, has a dynamic duo in the backfield with Brennan Blair and Devon White. Blair, a converted receiver, burst onto the scene last season and rushed for more than 1,200 yards after Cole and White missed a combined 10 games with injuries.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Kollie, who projects at outside linebacker in college, is happy to return to the backfield after tallying 1,085 receiving yards last season.
“I’m excited,” said Kollie, who’s eager to run behind senior college prospect Tony Davis. “It’s really one of the positions I’d played my whole life. I just want to help the team win and I think I can do that at running back – or wherever.”
Kollie, who could also take direct snaps in short-yardage and goal-line situations, has offers from elite programs such as defending national champion LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma.
He said the recruiting whirlwind was dream-like, especially with essentially all of it happening via Zoom meetings during a pandemic.
“It was hard to believe at first,” Kollie said. “I call it a blessing every time. It was kind of unreal, being where I am (in Jonesborough).”
Head coach Hayden Chandley and assistant Kevin Ramsey assisted Kollie during the process.
“Coach Ramsey and Coach Chandley did a great job,” Kollie said. “Yes, there were times it did get stressful for me. But they reminded me that this is my process and don’t let it be stressful for you, because it’s where you want to spend the next four years of your life. It was really just a blessing for me.”
Kollie, who liked what tradition-rich Notre Dame offers on and off the field, also credited former teammates such as his older brother John (Bluefield College) and Mark Seidler (Texas Wesleyan) for helping in his development.
“They both set good examples for me,” Kollie said. “And they weren’t easy on me in practice. Me and John, there’s a clip from practice where we had Oklahomas, and he ran me over. He definitely helped me be who I am today.”
Kollie’s recruitment is a source of pride for Jonesborough and the Crockett community.
“It really makes me smile knowing I gave some of the kids in the area a hope that they can do it, too,” Kollie said. “That’s the biggest thing, and just making the community proud.”
The chiseled Kollie is an asset physically, mentally and emotionally.
“His IQ on the field is second to none,” Chandley said. “And his instincts, you know, he’s just got a God-given ability. He’s so blessed physically and athletically. And you put all of that with the amount of work he does on a daily basis, you end up developing a very special product.
“The best part about Prince is his attributes off the field, the way he treats people. … He gets the job done in the classroom, treats everybody with respect. He’s a great leader. And you can see those characteristics on Friday night when he takes the field. It makes things that much easier when your best player is also your hardest worker and your best leader.”
Kollie will certainly draw a lot of attention from Ooltewah. The Pioneers are replacing record-setting quarterback Cade Larkins (East Tennessee State) and 1,000-yard receiver Donta Hackler (Tusculum), and the Owls figure to crowd the line of scrimmage against new quarterback Mason Britton.
Crockett defeated Ooltewah, 19-16, last year at Crockett. The game was suspended late in the third quarter after a lengthy lightning delay. The victory wasn’t official until weeks later when Owls coach Scott Chandler agreed to take a loss without resuming the game so record-chasing Larkins’ passing statistics would be official.
“That was definitely a classy move on his part, something we’ve spoken about numerous times since it happened,” Chandley said. “We know not every coach in the state would’ve done that. I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Chandler and his staff.”
Ooltewah will be inexperienced.
“They lost every starter on the offensive and defensive lines,” Chandley said. “The quarterback’s gone. The running back’s gone.
“But, you know, you take a 6A school like Ooltewah and they’re just gonna reload. They brought 90-some kids to Jonesborough last year. They’re gonna be extremely athletic and they were the most physical offensive line we played all of last season. We expect more of the same. We’ll have our work cut out for us, for sure.”
Meanwhile, Boone will be taking on a veteran CAK team in a last-minute matchup necessitated by Boone’s meeting with Sullivan South being canceled due to South players having COVID-19.
“CAK has nine out of 11 back on offense,” Trailblazers coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “They lost a big receiver and one of their linemen. And they’ve got 10 out of 11 back on defense. They’ve got two good defensive tackles. I know one has got several D-I offers.”
The ‘Blazers should have a balanced offense with Blair and White in the backfield along with quarterback Jackson Jenkins, who has proven receivers in Phillip Page, Daniel Matherly, Preston Miller and Kaleb Worley.
Blair ran wild after taking over in game three when Cole and White were sidelined. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards (averaging eight-plus yards per carry) and 13 TDs.
“I thought he ran with a great forward lean,” Jenkins said. “He has a little twitch about him and does a good job of pressing up inside. He may be the best back we’ve had that really can see the cutback as well as anybody. That really caught my eye. He’s not a big guy, but he ran really physically, especially late in the year. …
“Devon has got a lot of talent as well and we want to do a good job of getting him the ball as much as we can. He had a good offseason. He’s trimmed down a little bit and gotten a little bit quicker. With him and Brennan both in the backfield, that kind of gives us a double-edged sword.”