There hasn’t been the one defining moment for the Daniel Boone football team this season, although head coach Jeremy Jenkins said one game helped get the Trailblazers on track.
Starting the season 0-2 with blowout losses to Elizabethton and Cherokee, the Trailblazers went to Volunteer and pitched a 41-0 shutout of the Falcons.
“The Volunteer game was a springboard for us,” Jenkins said. “Going down there, we shut them out and then came back and beat a good Happy Valley team here. We had to run the gauntlet with D-B, Tennessee High and Science Hill.
“We played with D-B for a half and then we felt Tennessee High, we won every way but the score. Science Hill, we just got behind the 8-ball early with some big plays. Those three games, even though we were on the bottom end of the stick, prepared us for the final three games.”
Winning their final three games of the season, the Trailblazers (5-5) earned a berth in this Friday’s first round of the TSSAA playoffs against Knoxville West (8-2). While a win over Sullivan Central was expected, Boone had to ignore recent history the following week against Sullivan South and then survive an unpredictable rivalry game with David Crockett.
“To get in (the playoffs), we had to run the table,” Jenkins said. “To go to South, a place we hadn’t won since 1999, and then to beat your archrival in a mud-field condition, it was a tribute to the players and the coaches getting the kids ready. The kids have just gotten on board with what we’ve wanted to do and have executed our game plans perfectly.”
Running back Cliff Sanders is just 12 rushing yards shy of 1,000 for the season and has a team-best 15 touchdowns. Austin McLemore has compiled another 450 yards and six touchdowns. However, the statistic which best defines Boone’s success is time of possession.
With a high school game consisting of 48 minutes, the Trailblazers have kept the ball around 30 minutes per contest.
“It’s a credit to our offensive line,” Jenkins said. “Anytime you can eat the ball like that, you put the pressure on the other team. Also, a big advantage has been our kicker, Chris Dickerson. He kicks it into the end zone and the other team has to start on the 20-yard-line every time. To go 80 yards consistently in high school football is rough on you.”
Don’t think Jenkins has forgotten about his junior quarterback Jacob Littleton, who has also been a big-play guy on defense with an area-best six interceptions.
“We knew Jake was a great athlete,” Jenkins said. “We didn’t know how he would respond being under the lights for the big show. He will tell you early on that he struggled a little bit. But he has gotten better and better each week, and really came on this last three-game stretch. We do a lot of checking at the line of scrimmage and he does a great job of getting us in and out of stuff.”
On defense, Boone ranks better statistically this season than the previous two years when they won a combined 19 games. Jenkins said the defensive line, led by Ryan Iezzi, has been the unit that has set the tone.
Other defensive standouts have included Trevor Duncan, Zach Jackson, Chris Goodman, Joe Green and Josh Bacon.
“You can’t just pinpoint one thing or one player,” Jenkins said. “Football is the most team-oriented sport there is, and we constantly preach about everyone doing their jobs. Our kids have really latched on to that.”
The comparisons to the previous Boone class is inevitable, especially since the Trailblazers were coming off the two most successful seasons in school history.
However, Jenkins pointed out many players from this year’s senior class played key roles on those teams and have been a part of 29 wins at Boone.
“This has been more of a blue-collar group as there’s not one who just stands out as far as getting the notoriety,” Jenkins said. “We have 15 seniors who after the win on Friday have 29 career wins. That’s a lot of wins.
“I don’t know if they have a chip on their shoulders, but there are no two teams alike. Even the 2009 team was different that last year’s team. They all have their own identity. The group now has really just found their identity and all they can be. We’re very thankful with what has happened the last three weeks.”