But it was a vintage performance along both sides of the line of scrimmage that spurred the Trailblazers to a resounding 41-0 victory over Volunteer on Friday night in the Big 8 Conference opener for both teams.
“It starts up front,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “I thought we dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage.
“We did a lot of good things offensively, which we hadn’t done for two weeks. When we’re playing like that at the line of scrimmage, we can do some things.”
Boone’s offensive line cleared the way for the backs, led by Sanders, to rush for 208 yards. Meanwhile, Boone’s defensive line pushed Volunteer around all night, stuffing the run and hassling quarterback Houston Harris.
The Falcons mustered only 64 yards of total offense, with just 6 of those coming on the ground.
Sanders finished with 89 yards rushing on 12 carries and ran for three touchdowns. He also caught a 28-yard TD pass from Dustin Chandler in the second quarter.
Sanders was a one-man wrecking crew for the Trailblazers (1-2, 1-0), getting Boone on the scoreboard with a pair of big plays in the first quarter.
Sanders’ heroics started when he blocked a punt after Boone’s defense got a stop on the opening drive of the game. Three plays later, Sanders broke loose for a 23-yard TD run to give the ’Blazers the lead. He scored twice more in the second quarter to give Boone’s defense something it hadn’t had this season — breathing room.
Sanders’ third TD of the first half came at the tail end of an efficient two-minute drill that Jenkins pointed to as a huge confidence builder for his inexperienced team.
“We’ve been successful the last couple years and a lot of these kids have been there, but it’s their time,” Jenkins said. “They saw tonight what it takes effort-wise for us to have a chance.
“I’m just real tickled with our effort.”
For Volunteer coach Scott Ryder, the blocked punt was the beginning of the end for his team.
“That put us in a hole,” he said. “We had a nice little drive going there and should have gotten the punt off and played field position.
“They did some things well and we didn’t do some things well. Sometimes that’s how it goes.”
In addition to a robust rushing attack, Boone’s two-quarterback system finally paid some dividends on Friday night. Chandler threw a pair of touchdown passes and combined with Jacob Littleton to go 9-for-10 for 159 yards.
Harris and Kirk Cradic both took snaps under center for Volunteer (0-3, 0-1), but neither had much room to operate with a constant rush flooding into the pocket. The duo went 6-of-18 passing for 58 yards with an interception.