The David Crockett High School Pioneer Football Team is on a high after a seven-game winning streak, the best in Crockett’s history. Now the team will prepare to face conference opponent Tennessee High on Friday, Oct. 12 in Bristol.
By TREY WILLIAMS
The David Crockett football team’s season-opening winning streak was stretched to a school-record seven games Friday at Pioneer Field thanks, in part, to a school-record 99-yard reception in a 41-10 victory against Cherokee.
Pioneer receiver Donta Hackler made the record TD grab on a pass from fellow junior Cade Larkins on the first play after Cherokee was denied on a fourth-and-goal. Of course, the outcome already seemed to have long been decided. Hackler’s 99-yarder gave the Pioneers a 35-3 lead.
The athletic 6-foot-4 Hackler finished with three catches for 142 yards and two TDs. He had plenty of help from his skilled friends.
Larkins was 12-of-23 passing for 360 yards and five touchdowns Micah Robinson made five receptions for 135 yards and two TDs. And Ronquille Joyner rushed for 94 yards and a TD on 14 carries.
Cherokee coach Cody Baugh was impressed.
“They have very talented skill players,” Baugh said.
“If they can stay healthy they will give some Region 2, 3 and 4 teams fits in the playoffs.”
Crockett was coming off a bye week, and started flat. The Pioneers trailed 3-0 in the second quarter before a 21-point outburst calmed the Pioneers faithful by intermission. Crockett coach Hayden Chandley wasn’t shocked by the slow start.
“We came out sluggish, and we kind of expected that a little bit coming off the bye week,” Chandley said.
“We busted a few runs there in the second quarter, opened up the passing lanes for us. I’ve gotta give credit to those five guys up front. It was the best we’ve run the ball all year. Credit goes to our offensive line and Ronquille (Joyner) running hard.
“If we’re gonna get to where we wanna get to later on in the season, we’ve gotta be able to run the ball when 16 (Larkins) doesn’t have it. …
“Cade missed a few open guys early on but responded well by hitting some big ones later in the game.”
Chandley coaches the safeties on defense, and was especially pleased to see the secondary produce three interceptions. Robinson tallied 7 1/2 tackles and an interception and Prince Kollie had two interceptions and 5 1/2 tackles.
“We do a good job of mixing up our looks and our kids play extremely hard and do what we ask ‘em to do,” Chandley said. “I was bugging my two safeties. I said, ‘We don’t have a pick all year from you two.’ Like, that’s my position group, so I take that personally. And Prince ended up getting two (against Cherokee).’ He’s a talent.
It makes my job a lot easier when you’ve got a lot of talent like we’ve got.
“Defense played great bend-but-not-break defense. Anytime you force three takeaways in a game that makes things a lot easier for you as a coach.”
Chandley realized he was getting an impressive toy box in terms of athletes when he became Crockett’s head coach this year. And he quickly saw the linemen were more than capable.
But the players’ collective accountability and unselfishness has been a pleasant surprise.
Leadership has come from all corners of the locker room.
“And that’s not just seniors and that’s just not our captains — that’s from everybody,” Chandley said. “If a captain is slacking, you know, we’ve got another senior or even a junior that will pick him up and tell him to get his butt in gear.”
Larkins has passed for 2,089 yards, 26 TDs and three interceptions. Hackler has 33 catches for 735 yards and 10 touchdowns. Robinson, a senior, has tallied 26 receptions for 506 yards and seven TDs.
Joyner, a junior running back, gives the Pioneers’ offense balance. He has rushed for 604 yards and five TDs after missing his sophomore season with an ACL tear.
Senior Mark Seidler, who caught a 15-yard TD pass against Cherokee, has recorded 62 tackles, including 12 1/2 tackles for loss this season.
Crockett has a key Region 1-5A clash at Tennessee High in Bristol on Friday. The Vikings (3-1, 6-2) lost 26-21 to Daniel Boone and 35-21 at Elizabethton.
Tennessee High won 48-28 at Cocke County on Friday. Among its six victories is a 19-16 season-opening triumph at Knox Central.
“Looking forward, we can’t afford to start slow like we did against Cherokee,” Chandley said. “The Stone Castle is a tough place to play and we know we’ll have our hands full with those guys.
“Coach (Mike) Mays does a great job down there and we know he’ll have his kids fired up and ready to go. We will have to play physical, disciplined football for 48 minutes.”
Chandley said the high-flying Pioneers are still soaring toward their potential ceiling.
“I still don’t think we’ve played our best game on both sides of the ball,” he said.
But the Pioneers are trending toward it, which has generated a buzz around Jonesborough.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Chandley said, “for this community and these kids.”