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Biggest surprise so far? How about those Chiefs?

Douglas Fritz • Updated Sep 10, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Which football team is the biggest surprise of 2019?

After three weeks, the Cherokee Chiefs have a right to make that claim. They have three wins by a combined total of 14 points, including Friday’s 27-23 thriller over Morristown East.

Collin Trent preserved the win by making a diving interception inside the Chiefs’ 5-yard line with 13.8 seconds remaining in the game. It was yet another case of the Chiefs getting things done defensively late in the game.

“I think a lot of it goes to conditioning,” said Chiefs’ head coach Cody Baugh. “We condition them pretty hard Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The strength and conditioning program is something we take pride in. It goes unnoticed sometimes, but I think it helps.”

Trent, a safety better known for his quarterback prowess, has been the key element to victory for Cherokee. His missed last season with an injury and the Chiefs went 1-9, losing three games by three points or less.

“He’s very determined and a winner,” said Baugh. “When he has been healthy, we’ve won a lot of football games. He’s had some unfortunate things happen that took football away for a little over a year. But now he’s hungry and motivated.”

Trent’s fourth-quarter interception, his second pick of the game, was something special, said Baugh.

“He laid out, parallel to the ground, and made a diving catch,” he said.

The Chiefs have a challenge Friday night at home against Morristown West, and face Elizabethton on Sept. 27. But there is reason to believe the Chiefs could have a say in who wins the Region 1-5A title.

“I definitely see confidence growing,” said Baugh, who is in his fourth season at Cherokee. “This group of seniors has worked very hard. They are good leaders. Look at all levels of football, and the best teams have the best leaders. That’s what these guys are. They take pride in Cherokee football. It means a lot to them.”

CROCKETT GAME TIME

For anybody headed to Knoxville on Friday to watch David Crockett play Webb, the game is scheduled for kickoff at 7 p.m. That is 30 minutes earlier than the normal regular season time.

LARKINS WATCH

David Crockett quarterback Cade Larkins moved his career total for passing yards to 8,778 with Friday’s effort against Volunteer.

That moved him into ninth place on the state’s all-time list, eclipsing Campbell County’s Ethan Jeffers, who played from 2012-14. Larkins needs 522 yards to move up another rung on the ladder.

Also, Larkins is closing in on another prestigious list. He has 81 career touchdown passes, and needs only seven more to move into 10th place on the state’s all-time list.

HOW WE VOTED

Coverage-area teams receiving votes from the Johnson City Press/Times-News in this week’s Associated Press state poll, along with the No. 1 selection. (Coverage area is six counties: Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson, Hawkins):

Class 6A

Dobyns-Bennett (No. 5), Oakland (No. 1)

Class 5A

David Crockett (No. 2), Knox Central (No. 1)

Class 4A

Elizabethton (No. 2), Greeneville (No. 1)

Class 3A

None, Alcoa (No. 1)

Class 2A

Happy Valley (No. 8), Sullivan North (No. 9), Peabody (No. 1)

Class 1A

None, South Pittsburg (No. 1)

THE TOP 10

Cherokee, Science Hill and Tennessee High each moved up in this week’s rankings.

Team W-L Prv
1. David Crockett 2-0 1
2. Elizabethton 2-0 2

3. Dobyns-Bennett

3-0 3
4. Cherokee 3-0 5

5. Science Hill

1-2 6
6. Tennessee High 1-1 8
7. Daniel Boone 1-2 4
8. Sullivan South 1-2 7
9. Sullivan North 3-0 9
10. Johnson County 1-2 10

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Greeneville at Science Hill

The Hilltoppers got on track in a big way last week, but they were crunched 42-0 in this matchup last year.

Daniel Boone at Elizabethton

The Cyclones have dominated this series for a long time, and have a big favorite role for this meeting.

David Crockett at Knox Webb

The Spartans are 1-2, but the losses were against Chattanooga McCallie, which beat top-ranked Brentwood Academy on Friday, and undefeated Boyd-Buchanan. It should be a challenge for the Pioneers.

Happy Valley at Unicoi County

The Blue Devils haven’t found a way to beat the Warriors since 2013, and in that five-game stretch there has been at least a two-touchdown difference each time.

PICK OF THE WEEK

Elizabethton 42, Daniel Boone 7

The Cyclones are on a roll while the Trailblazers’ injury situation makes the gap between these teams look wider.

Picks record: 1-2.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Collin Trent, Cherokee

The Chiefs’ standout senior had perhaps the best game of his career.

Not only did he total 272 yards of offense and score all four of his team’s touchdowns in a tight 27-23 win over Morristown East on Friday, he also sealed the win with his second interception on a diving catch inside his team’s 5-yard line.

A video of the athletic play can be seen on the website version of this story at www.johnsoncitypress.com or www.timesnews.net.

THE HOGS AWARD

Sullivan North Raiders

Rooting out running lanes throughout the contest, the Golden Hogs pounded Cosby’s defense for 442 yards rushing on 30 carries — an eye-popping average of 14.7 per attempt — in a 57-31 win.

DEFENSIVE UNIT OF THE WEEK

Sullivan South Rebels

Facing a team that rang up 81 points over its first two games, the Rebels’ defense came to life. South held Grainger to six points in the 24-6 decision and had two key interceptions when the Grizzlies were moving the football.

SOCCER UPDATE

Elizabethton is off to a 2-0 in District 1-AA action. The Lady Cyclones beat Volunteer and Unicoi County, and can move to 3-0 by beating Sullivan Central at home on Tuesday.

There are some big tests ahead with Tennessee High (Thursday), Sullivan South (Sept. 17) and Greeneville (Sept. 24) over the next couple of weeks.

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