By TREY WILLIAMS
David Crockett’s football team is a quarterfinalist and its quarterback is a finalist, and now it must take on the team that caused Washington County rival Daniel Boone’s final hurrah.
The Pioneers improved to 12-0 while reaching the quarterfinals for the first time with an impressive 32-0 defeat of Tennessee High on Friday in Jonesborough. Cade Larkins, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior, passed for 292 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, and was subsequently named as one of three TSSAA Class 5A Mr. Football finalists on Monday.
Daniel Boone’s season came to an end Friday when it lost 49-7 at Knox Central (10-2), which will host Crockett on Friday at 7 p.m. This is the first time the Pioneers’ season has lasted longer than the Trailblazers’ since 1971 – the first year of the programs – when the Sandy Johnson-led Pioneers played Sevier County in a bowl game after a regular season that included a 74-0 Crockett victory in the inaugural Musket Bowl at East Tennessee State’s Memorial Stadium.
This has been a season for the ages for Crockett under 25-year-old first-year head coach Hayden Chandley.
“Like I’ve told our kids, ‘What you guys have done for this community – they’ll never forget it,’” Chandley said. “To come out and make a statement like we did (against Tennessee High) – I’m just so happy for our kids. They don’t realize it now, but 10, 15, 20 years down the road they’ll look back and realize what they were able to do. And that’s so special.”
It was rainy, muddy and cold Friday at Crockett, but the elements didn’t slow the Pioneers. Crockett outgained Tennessee High, 415-96, in the blowout after needing overtime to outlast the Vikings, 24-21, during the regular season in Bristol.
“We talked about it all year that we hadn’t put together our best game yet,” Chandley said, “and I think (Friday) was as close as we’ve come if we didn’t.”
Donta Hackler, a 6-foot-4 junior, had eight receptions for 127 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. Senior Micah Robinson (two receptions, 130 yards) connected with Larkins for an 84-yard touchdown.
Larkins has passed for 3,728 yards, 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions, which is why he’s a Mr. Football finalist along with Oak Ride’s Herbert Booker and DeShawn Page of Fulton.
“It’s an amazing honor and I’m very grateful that God gave me the ability and that I was selected,” Larkins said Monday night. “All the credit to my coaches, my O-line, my receivers and my backs for making me look good out there.”
Larkins’ backs helped open some holes in the secondary. Junior Ronquille Joyner (17 carries, 71 yards, two TDs) dashed through the middle for a 41-yard touchdown to open the scoring with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
“I have to give that all to the line, man,” Joyner said. “They came ready to block the run. Coach told ‘em we were gonna run because it’s slippery out here. So we had to.”
Joyner smiled when the Pioneers’ 12-0 record was mentioned.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “We’ve been waiting to come together since middle school. We’re all together now. Cade – that missing piece came in freshman year – and that was like, ‘Man, it’s meant to be.’”
Sophomore Prince Kollie’s 27-yard TD run made it 13-0 with 11:49 left in the second quarter.
“We blocked extremely well up front and busted a few runs there in the first half,” Chandley said. “It set up the play-action for us in the second half.”
Tennessee High coach Mike Mays credited Larkins in the dismantling of his defense.
“We’ve faced him three games now – four games – and he’s always been spot on,” Mays said. “Cade’s a good quarterback. … They’ve got some outstanding players and he gets the ball in their hands. He’s got an excellent arm and puts it right there.”
Senior linebackers John Kollie and Mark Seidler were instrumental in the Pioneers defense pitching a shutout. So was sophomore lineman Tony Davis.
“Our coaching staff does a great job getting our kids ready to play and the kids came out and executed the game plan exceptionally well tonight,” Chandley said. “Defensively, I think I heard somebody say that we held them to under a hundred yards of offense, which is just unbelievable with the caliber of team that Tennessee High is to be able to do that.”
Hackler has 67 catches for 1,205 yards and 15 TDs. Robinson (53 catches, 1,252 yards) also has 15 touchdown receptions. Joyner has rushed for 898 yards.
Seidler (121 tackles ) and John Kollie (101 in 11 games) are the Pioneers’ top two tacklers. Hackler has a team-high four interceptions.
The Pioneers anticipate their stiffest test of the season when they visit the Knox Central Bobcats on Friday.
“They’re big and physical and they get after you,” Chandley said.
Indeed, Central rolled to its 10th straight victory with the rout of Boone. Junior Charlie Cole’s TD run gave the ‘Blazers a fleeting lead. Cole was held to 35 yards, and finished the season with 1,850 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns.
Senior Easton Harrell completed an impressive season as a first-year starting quarterback. Harrell led Boone with 50 yards rushing, and ended the season with 1,070 yards rushing and 17 TDs. He also passed for 854 yards, seven TDs and three interceptions.
Sophomore Devon White led the Trailblazers with 96 tackles. Senior Logan Rivers was second on the team in tackles.
The Trailblazers won nine games during a season when they were replacing quarterback Noah Shelton, the conference’s reigning offensive player of the year, as well as lineman of the year Bailey Presnell, leading receiver C.J. Carter and defensive end Zach Taylor (Carson-Newman).