By Trey Williams
The Daniel Boone football team’s first ever conference championship might’ve been followed with a playoff victory if fate hadn’t hurt its cause.
But Boone was without two of its three most dynamic players when it hosted Knox Central in the first round of the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs Friday at Nathan Hale Stadium, and the Trailblazers limped to a 16-0 setback.
Sophomore Charlie Cole, a talented running back and explosive pass rusher, missed the game with a hamstring injury that’s nagged him since pulling it in a preseason scrimmage against Greeneville. Leading receiver C.J. Carter left the game early after aggravating an ankle injury. Defensive lineman Austin Cox (back) couldn’t play and enter Walker Burleson (hamstring) didn’t play the first half.
It made it appear that 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior quarterback Noah Shelton had the team on his back. Shelton rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries.
“Noah was the big thing we had running the ball, and they knew that, too,” said Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins, whose team finished the season with an 8-3 record, including a 6-0 mark in Region 1-5A. “That’s the hardest bunch we’ve had to block all year. They were big up front and they could move.
“We’re not a real good third-and-out and third-and-nine team. We got (Brennan) Blair loose on the jet (sweep) one time. … They were just loading up where Noah was.”
Senior kicker Ian Cummins stole the show for Central. He made all three of his field goal attempts, kicked all five kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and delivered a 51- and 44-yarder among his five punts.
Cummins’ 34-yard field goal gave the Bobcats (6-5) a 3-0 lead with 11:12 left in the second quarter. Central stretched its advantage to 10-0 with 8:34 left in the third quarter when Eli Sharp threw a 6-yard TD pass to Seth Armstrong on a third-and-goal. Cummins added a 35-yard field goal with 8:47 remaining and a 24-yarder with 7:15 to go.
“Their kicker was the player of the game,” Jenkins said. “He can kick, he can punt. We had to go 80 yards every time and he punted us inside the 10 twice.”
Knox Central was the state runner-up in Class 4A last season. It’s started four quarterbacks due to injuries this season, but coach Bryson Rosser suspected Boone might be more hamstrung by injuries.
“We knew they had a couple of guys that were gimpy,” Rosser said. “We didn’t know if they would play or not. But we just had a good game plan and wanted to come up here and play as hard as we possibly can.”
Trailing 3-0, Boone had a first-and-goal at the Central 5-yard line in the final minute of the first half. But back-to-back penalties helped prevent the ‘Blazers from scoring.
“Not being able to score there was big,” Jenkins said.
Indeed, Boone managed only one first down in the second half and tallied 125 yards of offense the entire game.
Treysean Moore rushed 27 times for 107 yards for Central. Fellow junior Demetrien Johnson had three receptions for 48 yards and an impressive pass breakup on a fourth-and-five from the Central 18 with Boone trailing 3-0 and 5:23 left in the first half. Zach Taylor had gotten open on a play-action pass route before the speedy Johnson recovered quickly to deny the first-down conversion, if not a touchdown.
Jenkins’ defense, which grew up on the job this season, was solid too, and should be even better next year. Junior Tommy Kolb had a productive season at linebacker, where fellow juniors Logan Rivers and Peyton Nickles also return.
“Tommy’s as good a linebacker as I’ve had here,” Jenkins said. “And Logan – all that bunch over there can really get after you. To hold them to 16 (points) to be on the field as much as we were on the field in the second half – uor hats off to them. … And we’ve got a lot of kids coming back (next season) on defense.”
Shelton rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season and passed for more than 1,000 yards. Mason Mounger rushed for in excess of 700 yards. They’re part of a senior class that went from the outhouse to the penthouse.
“The senior group, to come from 4-6 as freshmen and 1-9 as sophomores to win the first conference championship here since 1971, you know, hats off to them,” Jenkins said. “They’re getting us back to where we need to be. We played ourselves into hosting a home playoff game. It just wasn’t in the cards.”