November 4, 2022
GRAY, Tenn. – It’s been an amazing season for Daniel Boone’s football team and the Trailblazers started their playoffs Friday night playing all the hits.
The Trailblazers built their identity and the first undefeated regular season in team history, building on the management of football, defense and special teams. Passing Halls by a 37-15 margin on Friday at Gray, Boone prevailed through a combination of – you guessed it – running play, defense and special teams.
“We played our best game tonight,” said Aiden Riner, who rushed for 114 yards with a touchdown.
Boone also returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns, scored a safety and got a pair of field goals from outstanding specialist Ben Shrewsbury.
Boone (11-0) advances to face Knox Central (7-4) in the Round of 16 of the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs. As Region 1 champion, Boone will once again host. In picking up their 11th victory, the ‘Blazers also set the record for single-season winning program.
Has been instrumental in several of Boone’s wins to date, Shrewsbury has once again been a big part of the kicking game. He capped Boone’s initial two possessions with field goals, but the most impressive was his first: a booming 54 yards that would have been good from 60-plus.
The boot broke the TSSAA state playoff record of 52 yards set by DCA’s Brian Patterson against St. Benedict in 1996.
“It was really good. It was one of my best kicks of the whole season,” Shrewsbury said.
Shrewsbury also connected for 39 yards, was perfect with extra points (he’s yet to miss a PAT all season), and averaged 43.2 yards on five punts. This latest stat includes a 50-yard Boone coverage team downed at the goal-line gate, setting up a safety on the very next play when the ‘Blazers dropped ball carrier Halls in the end zone. . All but one of Shrewsbury’s kickoffs sailed into or through the end zone for a touchdown.
“Our weapon is [No.] 99,” Boone’s trainer Jeremy Jenkins said, referring to Shrewsberry’s jersey number.
“He’s our best player for sure,” Riner said.
Rare words for a stance that is often an afterthought until an error or game-winning kick is made.
“I love making a difference in our team,” Shrewsbury said. “I just want to go out and do my best, and I know my team will do their best.”
Shrewsbury’s big game came less than 24 hours after they were named TSSAA Kicker of the Year semi-finalists.
“Tonight he may have won for him. We hope,” Jenkins said. “He’s really working on it and he’s really working on his punting.”
Halls, meanwhile, just got worked up. The Red Devils (2-9) have sometimes threatened. Holding Boone down to score on his first two drives gave Halls a second-quarter lead, when Nolan Faust lined up a Shrewsbury punt and raced 67 yards into the end zone on a breathtaking sprint. The extra point made it 7-6 in favor of Halls.
Boone responded by scoring 31 straight points. This onslaught began with the first of those pick-6 returns, a pass that was stolen by Mikey Ramirez and returned 45 yards for a score.
“They had run this game a few times. He threw it a bit short; I stumbled across it,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t think I would get there [to the end zone] but I had some big blocks. Luke Scott and Ty Nance, they helped pave the way there.
Shrewsbury’s well-placed punt then set up safety, and on the ensuing possession Riner capped off the drive with a dive into the end zone from one yard, helping stake Boone to a home advantage. 23-7. He showed no signs of rust or sluggishness after spending the final two weeks of the regular season nursing an injury. He made the bulk of his 18 runs before halftime and spent most of the third and all of the fourth quarter as a spectator with a big margin in hand.
“It was good to be back,” Riner said.
Boone got the ball to start the second half and made a statement, designing his longest drive of the game, capped off by a short TD run by Brogan Jones. A second pick 6 comeback, this one from Tyler Alfred at the start of the fourth quarter, salted the result of this one. Alfred sent it back 30 yards, but not before reversing his pitch and dodging several attempts to bring it to the turf.
“As soon as I saw the quarterback let go, I knew he was knocking it down,” Alfred said of his interception.
He was one of several Boone players to either line up in a new position or see a major increase in responsibilities as Jenkins had to mix and match and even replenish a roster in some positions due to injuries. He thanked Alfred for becoming the extra defensive back in Boone’s dime package and praised Sam Witherspoon for his efforts at inside linebacker in place of the injured Hagan Edwards.
“We played with a light box all night trying to take their big plays and I thought our defensive line was really, really controlling it,” Jenkins said.
Whatever happens from here, Boone has already made history. No other Trailblazers team has won 11 games in a season.
Forgive these ‘Blazers for being greedy, but they want more – at least 12, starting next week.
“We are not worried about 11-0. We’re scared of going 5-0 in the playoffs,” Riner said.
Luke Jenkins threw for 76 yards and held off a tricky, relentless Halls pass rush that sacked him three times and pressured him multiple times. Rylan Trout had five catches for 31 yards. Landon Kirkpatrick had four grabs for 35 yards.
Halls finished with 162 rushing yards, but 80 of that — and the vast majority of the team’s first seven downs — came in the fourth quarter long after the matter was decided. Halls capped the drive on a touchdown on a 32-yard throw from Amarti Lethgo to Camden Johnson,