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Shadow looms over traditional football rivalry game

Douglas Fritz • Updated Oct 19, 2017 at 11:16 PM

It’s the biggest football game of the year for David Crockett and Daniel Boone, but it will be played in a shadow created by a former head coach and the school system that removed him from that position.

The Musket Bowl is scheduled for kickoff at 7:30 Friday night at Daniel Boone’s Nathan Hale Stadium. The two football teams are fighting for first place in Region 1-5A, a championship still within reach for each. It had the potential — perhaps it still does — to be the most important game in the history of David Crockett football.

Good Old Days

Gerald Sensabaugh arrived in Jonesborough as a “splash hire,” a cannonball into the water that could possibly produce a wave of success for the Pioneers.

And Crockett got off to a nice start. The Pioneers beat Seymour on the road and eventually ran their record to 5-2 with the only losses being two points to state-ranked Campbell County (37-35) and one point to Corryton Gibbs (21-20).

A pair of showdowns were on the horizon: A home game against Tennessee High, and then a road date against Washington County rival Daniel Boone.

The storm

After a turbulent weekend where Sensabaugh went toe-to-toe with the administration, he was instructed not to practice his team on Oct. 9.

Sensabaugh stated the administration didn’t give him “rhyme or reason for (canceling practice).”

However, Washington County Schools Superintendent Kimber Halliburton said Sensabaugh was directly addressed about the following:

• the use of profanity;

• practicing an injured player;

• embarrassing and threatening the injured player and the school trainer in front of others for telling the administration about the disputed practice;

• an assistant coach quitting because he said he felt Sensabaugh was “bullying” him; and

• shouting and unprofessional conduct by Sensabaugh toward the administrators.

Sensabaugh said his team was sidelined because he made allegations about drugs being offered to him by an administrator, money missing from the football account and poor learning conditions existing in Crockett’s feeder schools.

Eventually, Sensabaugh was placed on administrative leave and Brandon Qualls was chosen as interim head coach. Qualls coached the Pioneers in their 35-13 loss to Tennessee High on Oct. 13.

Sensabaugh continued to rally support for his cause, encouraging his followers to not buy tickets or concessions at the game, but to attend and watch from the parking lot. Crockett countered by parking school buses on the track to block views from the parking lot.

Week No. 2

Qualls was dismissed from the team after violating an administrative directive to put the previous week’s issues in the past and not bring them up to the team.

That led to Crockett moving on to a third head coach in three weeks. The Pioneers chose baseball coach Nick Lingerfelt to take over the team Monday.

Lingerfelt guided the Pioneers through practice this week with the help of former coaches with many combined years of experience.

The players

Crockett’s players were split during the first week, with many of them choosing to protest with Sensabaugh and not practice. The majority of them returned for game night.

This week, Lingerfelt said he had 51 players on the roster. There were 46 names on the preseason roster, so the Pioneers added new faces as the unrest has continued.

The game

Daniel Boone enters as a solid favorite. The Trailblazers would likely have been a slight favorite anyway, even without the Crockett turmoil and coaching turnover.

Boone has a stronger football tradition and has won 12 of the 13 Musket Bowls with Jeremy Jenkins as its head coach.

Both teams possess powerful offenses, with Boone averaging 33 points per game and Crockett totaling 36 a game. However, Crockett gives up 28 points per contest while Boone surrenders 21 — and that is skewed by Science Hill’s 63-point explosion when Boone was without key players.

The future

If Crockett loses this game, it will still have a good shot at reaching the playoffs.

In fact, a Cherokee loss to Tennessee High may secure a playoff spot for the Pioneers — even if they lose to Boone and next week to Morristown East.

However, the season will likely remain cloudy until it ends or until Sensabaugh removes himself from the equation.

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