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Pioneer defense overpowers Cocke County, 41-20

Tanner Cook • Sep 14, 2018 at 11:55 PM

NEWPORT — “The defense answered the bell and that was the best half of defense we played all year.”

Those words came from David Crockett head football coach Hayden Chandley after his team shut out Cocke County in the second half to win going away, 41-20, on Friday night at Larry Williams Stadium.

The Pioneers improved to a program-best 5-0 and 2-0 in Region 1-5A play with the victory over previously unbeaten Cocke County (3-1, 0-1).

The Crockett defense proved strong after halftime, forcing three turnovers and yielding only 75 yards to the Fighting Cocks.

Crockett quarterback Cade Larkins crafted another big game, going 23 of 31 with 375 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He finished with five total TDs, also accounting for a rushing score.

As big as Larkins’ night was, nobody made more of an impact than Donta Hackler, who caught seven passes for 150 yards and one touchdown — and had two key second-half interceptions to halt the Fighting Cocks in their tracks.

“I knew they were going to try to get me on the stand because the middle of the field was wide open,” Hackler said. “I read it and I just made a play. … I saw the mismatch (on the defender), but Cade (Larkins) recognized it and gave me the perfect route to run and I capitalized on it.”

The game looked like it was going to be a repeat performance of last year’s shootout in Jonesborough as the teams had their playbooks pretty wide open in the first quarter.

Crockett was first to strike with a Larkins pass to Prince Kollie on a jailbreak screen that ended up going 45 yards to the house.

Cocke County fired back with a five play, 57-yard scoring drive, capped off by a Rahiem Meeks run from 2 yards out to even the game at six.

Crockett answered with an eight-play, 39-yard march that Larkins finished with a sneak across the goal line to seize the lead back.

After another Meeks score and a two-pointer, Big Red held a 14-13 lead moving into the second quarter.

Prince Kollie found the end zone again on a 3-yard carry to give him two scores for the evening. Larkins hooked up with John Kollie on the next possession to hand the Pioneers a 27-14 advantage.

However, the Fighting Cocks got one more touchdown from Meeks to pull within seven (27-20) to end the half. He would finish the night with seven carries for 18 yards and three scores.

The first drive of the second half didn’t unfold ideally for Crockett as Larkins threw just his third interception of the year and Cocke County took over at its own 27.

The Pioneer defense hung tough, however, stopping a 12-play Cocke County drive on fourth-and-7 at Crockett’s 37-yard line.

Larkins hit Micah Robinson on a 24-yard score to give Crockett a 14-point advantage early in the final quarter. On the very next play, Meeks fumbled and the Pioneers recovered at their own 38.

On Cocke County’s next two possessions, quarterback Jarren Ensley threw back-to-back interceptions and Big Red’s fate was sealed.

Ensley finished the game with 159 passing yards on a 12-for-24 effort. Cocke County was held under 300 yards of offense for the game.

“Like I say all the time, I’m glad he (Hackler) is on my team and I don’t have to scheme against him,” Chandley said. “We challenged our kids at the half. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. I love these kids to death. … Ever since the second half of the Campbell County game, our line has protected Cade. If we give (Larkins) time to throw, we’re dangerous. I’m fortunate to have all these guys on my team.”

Crockett will travel next week to Hampton for a non-conference game and try to keep its perfect record intact.

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