By TREY WILLIAMS
With eight new starters on defense, David Crockett didn’t figure to be pitching shutouts this season.
But the Pioneers recorded a 35-0 win at home against Cocke County on Friday, holding the Fighting Cocks to 77 yards of offense in the Region 1-6A victory.
Crockett (2-0, 4-0) forced four turnovers, giving it 13 takeaways in four games.
“A player I’ve been big on since week one is Brenden Reid,” said Crockett second-year coach Hayden Chandley, who improved his record to 16-1. “The kid just makes plays. He plays one of our strong safety spots.”
Reid, a sophomore, has 27 tackles on the season. Junior Prince Kollie has 28.
“I think Brenden led us in tackles and had a tackle for loss (against Cocke County),” Chandley said. “He’s just got a nose for the football and plays extremely hard. His twin, Brayden, had a fumble recovery for a touchdown. I’m just really proud of the way those two guys have just come into their own here in the middle part of the season. That’s been a really good sight to see.”
Kollie had seven catches for 130 yards and Donta Hackler had five catches for 100 yards against the Cocks. Senior quarterback Cade Larkins passed for 276 yards. Larkins, who has a shot at the state passing yardage record, is 71 of 117 passing for 1,160 yards, 16 TDs and no interceptions.
Kollie, who has 25 catches for 541 yards and six TDs, is being followed closely by Virginia Tech.
“Virginia Tech talks to Prince pretty much every other day,” Chandley said. “Prince had a big third-down sack in the first half (against Cocke County), which was good to see. And offensively, Prince had another superb game at receiver and Mason Britton had another touchdown reception. It’s kind of funny, Mason’s caught 13 balls on the year, I think, for six touchdowns. It’s just kind of crazy the way it’s worked out.
“We were without (receiver-defensive back) Eric Dunbar. It was the first game he’s missed. He got hurt against Knox Webb. He got a little knee issue. He’ll be out again this week, but then with the bye week coming up (Oct. 4) we hope to get him back for the Cherokee game. The offensive line did some good things as well. Blaine Greer, Tony Davis, Caleb Hackler, Parish Combs and all those guys played really well defensively up front.”
Crockett has sustained the focus it had last season while advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
“Last year’s motto was All In,” Chandley said. “This year we’ve adopted the saying ‘Be Great.’ … Do you want to be remembered as the senior class that went 12-1 as juniors and then had a letdown as seniors?
“We’ve challenged the kids to that, and they’ve upheld that standard so far. The standard now in Jonesborough is you’ve gotta bring it every single day, no days off and you don’t play second fiddle to anybody. There’s just good buzz in the school and in the community. The kids, you know, are carrying around a big chest, and they deserve that. They’ve worked their tails off for it. Hopefully, we can continue that.”
Chandley chuckles when being credited with the most successful 17-game stretch in the program’s 49-year history.
“These kids, man, I’m telling you, it’s a blessing to coach these kids,” he said. “I thank God every day for bringing me here. There’s never been athletes to come through here quite like the ones we have. The credit goes to those guys and buying in to the vision the staff has for the program. They bought in real quick.
“So far it’s worked out. I’m blessed to have the staff that we’ve got. I surrounded myself with a great group of coaches that are not only great football coaches, but they care about young men.”
David Crockett will play Sullivan Central this week before concluding the season with four straight league games.
Injury-riddled Daniel Boone, which was idle last week, jumps right back into the fire against Dobyns-Bennett this week.