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By TREY WILLIAMS
The David Crockett girls basketball team hadn’t played since a Nov. 28 loss to Cocke County in the Hardee’s Classic championship game when it took the court Monday in Maryville.
And the coronavirus pandemic that had led to a 23-day layoff also left the Pioneers without Mackenzie Baldwin and Nora Walters.
But senior Emma Gouge poured in 20 points and grabbed six rebounds and first-year coach Thomas Gouge’s Pioneers improved to 4-1 with a 70-52 win against First Baptist Academy in the Maryville Heritage Christmas Classic.
“It was just great to get back on the court and play,” Thomas Gouge said. “We’ve not played since the Hardee’s Classic, which was nearly a month ago. To come out our first game after the long layoff with two key players still out and score 70 was promising and shows the potential this team has. The girls have really been getting after it and our practices are intense battles every day.”
Crockett also got 11 points from Alyssa Suits and nine from Kaylee Tester. Halle Scott and Kadence Fannon added eight apiece.
“We have depth and the underclassmen have really stepped up as well,” Thomas Gouge said. “We just have to lock in and stay focused and improve daily. The future of our program is very bright, and I believe for this year’s team the sky is the limit.”
David Crockett’s boys had a less enjoyable week. Second-year coach Cody Connell’s Pioneers dropped a home game against Elizabethton on Tuesday and a pair of games in Maryville on Friday and Saturday, and Connell said he thought the Pioneers should’ve won all three.
Elizabethton escaped 65-63 on a last-second put-back by Will Willocks. With the score tied, the Cyclones attempted a 40-footer with some six seconds left, and then missed a follow attempt of the air-ball. But Willocks grabbed a second offensive rebound.
“I thought we played good for about 31 minutes and 55 seconds,” Connell said. “It was just one of those unbelievable finishes there at the end where they got two offensive rebounds. And when that happens you’re not gonna win many games. …
“The first shot was about five feet in front of half-court. Their kid got the rebound and did a reverse layup. He missed it, but our guy tried to block the shot. And when he did his guy snuck in and got the rebound and laid it in with no time left. It was kind of depressing, very depressing.”
The trip to Maryville was even more disheartening. The Pioneers (5-4) lost 59-53 to Concord Christian on Friday and 59-55 to Maryville Christian on Saturday, and Connell said his team should’ve prevailed rather comfortably in both games with effort and focus.
“We got up 15 both games,” he said. “Concord Christian outrebounded us 47-20 with 26 offensive rebounds. And we were way more athletic.”
The Pioneers were flat much of the way in both games, which were played in what were essentially empty gyms.
“We’ve got to learn not to rely on the crowd or the atmosphere to get us pumped,” Connell said. “We also shot 18 percent. You’re not gonna win any games doing that.
“Maybe it’ll wake our guys up a little bit. We lost two games in our Christmas tournament last year we had no business losing last year. Right after that we kind of turned it up a little bit. We got back home and started playing really good basketball.”
Ayden Begley and Mason Britton scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, against Elizabethton.
Begley had 19 points against Concord Christian. Isaiah Lang had 12 points, five steals and three assists. Britton tallied 10 points and eight rebounds.
Clint Pierce scored 27 points against Maryville Christian.
Britton is averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks on the season. Begley is averaging 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Daniel Boone boys lost 48-45 at Gate City on Monday. The Trailblazers, who led by seven with four and half minutes left, were outscored 20-4 during a game-ending tailspin.
Samuel Stroupe led Boone with 13 points. Breiydon Gilliam and Caleb Head added 12 and 11 points, respectively. Head had six assists and six rebounds, both team highs.
The Daniel Boone girls (0-6) lost 45-36 to Tennessee High on Dec. 15. Savannah Jessee and Maci Master had 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively. Freshman Josie Jenkins’ six points led the team.
The Trailblazers are scheduled to play Cloudland on Tuesday at Ridgeview Middle School due to the court being redone at Bobby Snyder Gym.
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David Crockett football players Donta Hackler and Blaine Greer could make a sudden impact in college.
Hackler, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver, is returning to his native Greeneville to play for Tusculum University. Greer, a 6-foot-7, 315-pound lineman, signed with Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky.
Hackler tallied 149 receptions for 2,486 yards and scored 31 touchdowns while playing for coach Hayden Chandley the past two seasons. The Pioneers went 19-5 during that span – the most successful two-year stint in the program’s 49-year history – and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time in 2018.
A lot of that success was due to the fact that Hackler moved to Jonesborough from Greeneville in the fourth grade. Now, he’s headed back.
“I wanted to stay close and I have family down there,” Hackler said. “So that helped a lot. Tusculum’s a great opportunity.”
Hackler attended Frankie DeBusk camps while in elementary school. He’ll be playing for DeBusk’s successor, Jerry Odom, who will be entering his fifth season.
“I got a great feel for him and all the coaches,” Hackler said. “They all have a lot of energy and they just got a new offensive coordinator that won the national championship last year. … They said if I’m willing to come in and work and earn the starting job, they said there’s no question I could start. So that’s what I’m looking forward to – starting.”
Hackler generated a great deal of Division I interest and might continue to even while at Tusculum. But he’s comfortable at home in Division II.
“Tyreek Hill is from D-II – the middle of nowhere – and look what he’s doing,” Hackler said. “I mean he’s fastest guy in the NFL.”
Tusculum alum Ricardo Colclough played four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-07).
Chandley said Hackler has the tools to be an All-South Atlantic Conference player.
“If Donta goes up there and works hard in the classroom as well as the weight room and the practice field and things like that, Donta has every opportunity to go up there and be extremely successful,” Chandley said. “We’re excited for him. He’s staying close to home. So it’ll give some Jonesborough people an opportunity to go watch him play. We’re excited for Donta to be moving on and remaining a Pioneer, and we’re looking forward to seeing him grow as an individual and a football player.”
Chandley has watched Greer grow as a football player the past two years. Greer didn’t play football his freshman or sophomore seasons. That changed with the arrival of Chandley, who’d been Greer’s baseball coach in middle school.
“He coached me in baseball my eighth-grade year,” Greer said. “So that was one of the deciding factors of me playing football my junior year. … He came to me and he told me, ‘Blaine, whether you like it or not, you’re gonna play for me.’ I said, ‘Okay, I’ll see ya out there.’”
Greer, who noted the loving support of his parents Eric and Tina, considered going to East Tennessee State and Emory & Henry.
“ETSU wanted me as a preferred walk-on,” Greer said. “And, in my opinion, I felt like at Union I had a better chance, a better deal to go in, get a good education and play football at the same time. … It’s great. I’ve worked my butt off for two years since whenever I started playing my junior year, and I can see now that it’s all paid off.”
Greer, who was appreciative of Crockett assistant Kevin Ramsey’s assistance in the recruitment process, said the Union coaches expect him to play offensive tackle.
“They told me, ‘Right now you can come in and compete for a position on the team,’” said Greer, who felt right at home on campus and in Barbourville. “I love the atmosphere there. It’s kind of like Crockett. It’s a small town, kind of old looking and gives you that (similar) setting.”
It was especially gratifying for Chandley to see Greer parlay football into a college education.
“Blaine came to us for two years,” Chandley said. “He was extremely raw, and got a good package up at Union. He had an opportunity, actually, to walk on at ETSU and stay close to home. But he wanted to go up to Union and give himself an opportunity to start and play right away. That was a big deciding factor for him.
“He got a pretty good package from those guys and felt liked and welcomed up there, and he’s excited to go up there. I look for, hopefully, a good offensive line coach up there to get ahold of him and mold him for a year or two, and I think we could see some big things out of Blaine here in a couple of years.”
Greer and Hackler each noted routing Science Hill, 62-34, in 2019 and defeating Daniel Boone in 2018 – in that order – as their top memories from Crockett’s unprecedented two-year stretch of success.
“Throughout my whole entire life I’ve always had, like, a bad feeling about Science Hill,” Greer said. “I never really liked ‘em that much. And getting to play them this year and beating ‘em (convincingly) – it was the best feeling in the world. …
“We did really well (against Boone) our junior year. All of our seniors had the mentality that they were not losing against Boone, like Mark (Seidler) and Micah (Robinson) and Jon (Kollie) and all of them. They made everybody else know that we were about to win this game. We just had a lot of energy. We came in to this Boone game after the Tennessee High loss (last season) and I guess we just slowed down, didn’t have enough fire in us.”
Hackler had eight catches for 70 yards, including a fourth-and-11 conversion reception, on the Pioneers’ opening scoring drive in the surreal rout of Science Hill, which was the Pioneers’ first in the series.
“Beating Science Hill – that was a great memory,” Hackler said. “And the second one was beating Daniel Boone last year (in 2018). It was amazing, you know, just holding the Musket.”
This year’s senior class at Crockett had three head coaches and two interim head coaches. But having teammates such as Jon and Prince Kollie, Seidler, Robinson and quarterback Cade Larkins made it well worth it.
“It was fun playing with those guys since moving up here in the fourth grade,” Hackler said, “and meeting all those guys and, you know, going through a lot – like a lot – that I wouldn’t have imagined (having) to go through. And to win games with them and work hard during the summer – on and off the field working hard with each other and just trying to find the best way to win – I’ll never forget that.”
By TREY WILLIAMS
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