By Trey Williams
Daniel Boone’s football team will play Knox Central for a berth in the TSSAA playoff quarterfinals on Friday.
The first Trailblazers team to reach the quarterfinals in 2009 bore a strong resemblance to this year’s squad. Jeremy Jenkins coached both teams, which were physical, veteran bunches with impressive tandems of inside linebackers.
Blake Shropshire and Matt Duncan were the linebackers in 2009. They provided resistance similarly to how Henry Hamlin and Hagen Edwards have done so this season. Shropshire also rushed for more than 800 yards.
The ’09 team was the first Boone team to defeat Dobyns-Bennett, Science Hill and Tennessee High the same season, and all three were road victories. The 23-14 win against Tennessee High, which was ranked No. 1 in the state, came in the second round of the playoffs and avenged a 51-26 loss in the regular season during which Taylor Harmon had passed for a record-setting 339 yards.
After avenging that rout, the ‘Blazers took a piece of the Vikings’ iconic Stone Castle with them from the visitors’ locker room.
“When we beat Tennessee High in the playoffs over therea bunch of the seniors broke off pieces of the Stone Castle and took ‘em with us as souvenirs,” Shropshiresaid. “I had a piece of it I put on a piece of wood with a plaque on it and I gave that to Coach Jerry Jenkins (the defensive coordinator). I love that man. He’s a good one.
“We had a real good relationship. I called all the plays on defense. So me and him talked a whole lot.”
Shropshire carried the ball nine straight times on Boone’s drive that sealed the win at Tennessee High, an especially notable feat when considering he’d separated his shoulder in the regular season finale – a 28-7 win against rival David Crockett.
“Blake was a special player,” said Daniel Boone offensive coordinator Ethan Good, who was the starting center on the 2009 team. “He was kind of the glue to everybody as far as team captain and getting us to play hard and all that. He was the man as far as that goes.
“Shoot, that last drive we were burning the clock and I guess a four-minute offense just putting the game away, and he carried that thing on a bum shoulder. I remember specifically feeding him and he put the game away.”
A 17-14 victory at Dobyns-Bennett in the fourth game of the season was arguably as exciting as any victory in ’09.
Shropshire said colorful Indians coach Graham Clark had helped fire up the Trailblazers.
“He said something about Kevin Connell, our quarterback, needs to lay off the Burger King,” Shropshire said. “And so Connell went to Burger King and got one of those crowns, you know, and he got interviewed after the game and he wore his Burger King crown while he was being interviewed after the game. I thought that was that was pretty good.”
Good chuckled while recalling the crowned Connell.
“Kevin was always loose,” Good said. “No stage was too big for him.”
Boone held D-B’s Chris Sensabaugh to 89 yards, well below his average.
“I remember going into D-B and they placed us in the smallest locker room they had (it felt like),” Connell said, “and Coach Jenkins said, ‘Boys it might bite us in the butt, but when they do their ‘walk’ we are going to sprint right to the 50 and show them who the real DB is!’ So they started and here we go sprinting right at them.
“Once the game got going and we had some momentum we knew our defense was strong enough to stop anyone, and we caught some breaks along the way. I remember it was so loud that year (at D-B) there were multiple times we just called our own plays – the simple plays like Blake left, Blake right, Blake where do you want to run next, because the band and fans were so loud.”
Boone platooned Connell, who went on to pitch at The Citadel, and fellow southpaw Austin Reppart at quarterback.
“It worked well for us because Kevin was more of the runner and Austin was more of a thrower,” Shropshiresaid. “Not that Kevin couldn’t throw. He could throw it, too. But running’s kind of what he did. I mean, I always thought it was hilarious that our quarterback played defensive end.”
Boone defeated Science Hill 23-0 in ’09. It was the next-to-last game in Memorial Stadium. The shutout appeared doomed late in the first half.
“Science Hill had first and goal on the 1-yard line,” Jeremy Jenkins said. “I remember it just like yesterday. And we held ‘em – right before the half.”
Strong safety Hayden Chandley, now the David Crockett coach, was instrumental in the goal line stand.
“Hayden knocked it down on a fourth-down pass before the half,” Jenkins said. “Hayden also had the big interception at J. Fred (Johnson Stadium at Dobyns-Bennett) to get the ball back for us to score. We scored on the counter play to the right with Tyler Shepherd right down the sideline.”
As much fun as it was beating Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett, Shropshire said the second-round playoff win at Tennessee High was the ultimate thrill in 2009.
“There’s a lot of people still to this day that will talk to me about it and say, ‘That’s the best game I’ve ever watched, the best game I’ve ever been to,’” Shropshiresaid. “They came in and they were ranked number one in the state that year at that time. And so we came in and I don’t know how many people gave us a chance, especially after our last meeting. And I mean, the score was close, but when you know you’ve got the momentum and you’re really just moving the ball – we just felt that we had that one. We felt like we controlled the game most of the time and controlled the line of scrimmage.
“It was a great game. I think I carried it nine straight times and, I mean, we just ran it down their throat and stuck it in the end zone and it was over. There’s like a minute left.”
Duncan and Shropshire were a dominant duo.
“You had Matt Duncan going sideline to sideline making tackles,” Jenkins said, “and Blake playing linebacker every snap and then going over there and running the ball.”
Sullivan South ended Boone’s season with a 34-21 victory in the quarterfinals. South had also defeated Boone 35-28 in overtime in the third game of the season.
“Our Achilles heel was always Sullivan South,” Shropshire said. “We barely lost to them the second or third game of the season and we lost to ‘em in the playoff game. And I still think we were better than they were.”
Despite this year’s team being 11-0 for the first time in the program’s 52-year history, there are those who think the 2009 team was better. Coach Jenkins probably wouldn’t weigh in on that one even if he had a strong opinion.
“The ’09 bunch and this team would be a pretty good ballgame,” Jeremy Jenkins said. “I’d like to see that game.”