Recent success includes a Region 1-5A championship in 2017 and a 9-3 mark in 2018, during which the Trailblazers advanced to the second round of the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs. Trying to continue that trend, Boone is relying heavily on the legs of all-state running back and Army commit Charlie Cole along with a pair of his backfield mates, Devon White and Joe Jones.
“I’ve been here 16 years and have had some good backs, but this may be the best group of backs we’ve had with Charlie, Devon and Joe,” coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “They’ve all got a unique style with what they can do.”
The biggest question mark comes at quarterback where the ’Blazers must replace Easton Harrell, who was also a significant running threat. Jenkins has full confidence in Harrell’s successor, however.
The coach said sophomore Kaleb Worley can beat you with his arms or legs. Discussing his skill set, Worley echoed those thoughts — though his plan is to use his arm more than his legs.
“I can pull it and run if I have to,” Worley said. “But I’m a quarterback who wants to stay in the pocket and throw it more instead of just running. I can roll out and throw it on the run pretty good.”
Although young, Worley expressed confidence in running the offense. He likes that he has so much talent around him.
“I’m really excited, just being a sophomore, and to have Charlie behind me,” he said. “I have a lot of good wide receivers with Brennan (Blair), Phillip (Page), Daniel Matherly and Daniel Lusk. We’ll be pretty good this year.”
Jenkins’ son Jackson, a junior, is the backup QB and has seen limited varsity action. But whoever’s throwing the ball has plenty of options to connect with.
The Trailblazers feature a host of talented receivers — Page, Blair, Matherly, Lusk, Preston Miller and Austin Cunningham.
Four juniors and a sophomore start on the offensive line, but all have experience. Matt Masters is at center. Chandler Masters and Peyton Ford are the guards with Josh Bowman and all-conference selection Jake Sipos at tackle. Aaron Ford is going to play a lot as well.
“We like our offensive line as a whole group as far as getting off the ball and keeping a hat on a hat,” Coach Jenkins said. “That’s the No. 1 goal with the backs we have.”
The defensive side of the ball is where the ’Blazers are most limited in experience, although Jenkins sees talent up front.
“That’s where we got hit the most by graduation,” he said. “We only have Devon White back from our front seven. He’s an all-conference linebacker and a good place to start, but we’ve got a whole new group.”
Zach Lawson, Aaron Ford and Jacob Bradley are the starters on the line. Edgar Manning, Will Hamlin and Cole Bishop factor in, along with Clayton Moorhouse.
The linebacking corps includes White, Cole, Connor McBride and Ashton Church. In the secondary are three-time all-conference selection Jones and Preston Miller at corner. Lusk, Page and Cunningham are also in the defensive backfield.
“We took a hit in the front, but the secondary is back,” Jenkins said. “We have to do a good job of stopping the run and being physical, especially in our league. We don’t have experience at some places, but we have more speed than we’ve had in the past.”
On special teams, Jacob Jenkins and Ben Shrewsberry handle the kicking duties. Moorhouse is the punter, and Page, Lusk and Blair head up the return game.
The toughest part of the equation could be a brutal schedule. Besides challenges like rival David Crockett, Tennessee High and Cherokee in Region 1-5A, Boone plays traditional Class 6A power Dobyns-Bennett and the top three area teams in Class 4A.
“We know our league is going to be a tough league and our schedule is second to none, playing South, Elizabethton, D-B and Greeneville nonconference,” Coach Jenkins said. “We know we have to go off the start.”
Aug. 23 at Sullivan South
Aug. 30 Greeneville
Sept. 6 Tennessee High
Sept. 13 at Elizabethton
Sept. 27 Dobyns-Bennett
Oct. 4 at Morristown East
Oct. 11 Volunteer
Oct. 18 at Cocke County
Oct. 25 David Crockett
Nov. 1 at Cherokee