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Trailblazers earn ninth straight win in county rivalry

ween Daniel Boone (5-5, 4-3) and David Crockett (1-9, 1-6), 56 seconds was all it took to turn a tight fourth quarter match into a 27-0 romp, hoisting the Blazers into the playoffs with a final regular season win.
With rain pelting the field at Nathan Hale Stadium in Gray and temperatures steadily dropping, the inclement weather kept the audience sparse and the contest sloppy.
Despite the imperfect conditions, the game featured two teams playing for more than just a musket.
The Pioneers entered the contest, taking the field for the last time this season, trying to send their few seniors out as county champions.
For Boone, its cross county rival was the only thing that stood in the way of a postseason. A win would send the Blazers into the playoffs, retire the musket and mark their ninth consecutive win over the Pioneers.
As it has been so many times before, the Musket Bowl was once again the biggest game of the season for both schools.
The first half featured a defensive struggle as the wet field acted as an equalizer for the two teams.
Crockett received to start the first, but was an early victim of a three and out and was forced to punt. The Blazers were able to move the sticks, but the Pioneer defense would give nothing more, stopping Boone on a fourth down screen.
The defensive chess match continued for most of the first half, with neither team able to really move the ball against the other.
The scoreless half was highlighted by a Pioneer fake punt.
Midway through the second quarter and backed up into their own endzone, facing a fourth and 17, Crockett Coach Kent Green called on punter Hunter Tipton to make a throw. The fake worked as the senior rolled to his right to complete the pass for a first down.
The Pioneer offense couldn’t capitalize on the change of momentum, giving the ball back to the Blazers minutes later. But a Pioneer defense that has been beaten early and often all season kept the team in the game, stopping the powerful Blazer rushing attack for the entire first half.
The teams walked off the soggy field for intermission with the game at a 0-0 stalemate.
Boone, receiving the ball to open the second half, appeared to finally realize what was at stake as the Blazer rushing attack finally got going.
The backfield trio of junior Cliff Sanders, senior Austin McLemore and sophomore Josh Bacon pounded the interior of the Crockett defense.
A Pioneer front that refused to budge in the first half began to show cracks as Boone moved the ball down the field. Held to just 25 yards rushing in the first two quarters, Sanders doubled his total on one carry, finding a hole in the Crockett defense and exploiting it for a 23-yard touchdown run.
The five-minute drive ended the deadlock and put Boone in front 7-0 following a Chris Dickerson extra point.
The Pioneer offense continued to struggle to hold onto the ball, putting the pigskin on the turf a total of 13 times during the game.
While the defense was showing signs of wearing down, the Pioneers escaped the third quarter only trailing by a touchdown. But three minutes into the final stanza, the physicality of the Blazers began paying off.
After a Crockett penalty on their punt gave the ball to Boone at their own 44, the Blazers took advantage. One- and two-yard runs of the first half turned into five- and seven-yard gashes for the Blazer backs. The five-play, 56-yard drive was capped off by a 29-yard Bacon run around the outside that went for six.
The touchdown was the beginning of a 20-point swing in just 56 seconds to put the game out of reach.
Following the touchdown, Boone Coach Jeremy Jenkins called for a pooch kick which was recovered by senior Blazer Chris Goodman.
Just 15 seconds after Bacon’s score, senior McLemore went nearly untouched for a 53-yard touchdown run. A successful two-point conversion pushed the Boone lead to 21-0.
Crockett fielded the kickoff, but was stopped at the seven.
After a rush pushed the ball back to the five, another Pioneer fumble finished off the flurry of Blazer points when defensive end Joe Green fell on the ball for another Boone touchdown, the final score of the game.
The injuries piled up. With Senior Seth Miller down in the first half and Crockett’s go-to guy, Anthony Campbell, batting an injury throughout the second half, a Pioneer comeback was unattainable and Crockett was unable to score in the remaining minutes of the fourth quarter.
Crockett was only able to muster a total of 35 second-half yards, finishing the contest with just over 100 total yards on offense in the game.
Campbell finished with just 26 yards on the ground, while Dylan Culbertson ended the night with 32 yards.
For Boone, it was the tale of two halves, as the Blazers finished with 284 yards on the ground in the second half, for a combined rushing effort of 370 yards in the game.
McLemore ended his night with 109 yards on nine carries while Sanders led all rushers with 120 yards.
Both the Blazers and Pioneers struggled to throw the ball in the wet conditions, completing a combined total of four passes.
The victory was Boone’s ninth consecutive Musket Bowl win during which the Blazers have retired three muskets that will permanently reside at the school.
The celebration in Gray won’t last long however, as the win earned Boone a berth in the TSSAA state playoffs.
The Blazers will now prepare for a team that knocked them out of the postseason a year ago, Knoxville West.
Boone sneaks into the playoffs as a seven seed and will travel to Knoxville on Friday, Nov. 4 for a chance at revenge against the Rebels.
The game is set for 7 p.m.