Knox Central used a balanced offense to control time of possession and took advantage of four Crockett turnovers in a 23-12 win Friday night in the TSSAA Class 5A quarterfinals.
The Bobcats (11-2) passed for 160 yards and rushed for another 118. Meanwhile, their defense controlled the line of scrimmage, holding Crockett to minus-2 rushing yards, and picked off Pioneers quarterback Cade Larkins four times.
The loss didn’t diminish the accomplishments of a record-setting season. The Pioneers (12-1) completed the first undefeated regular season in school history, recorded the school’s first two playoff victories and set a record with a dozen wins in a single season.
“These kids have done so much for our community and have represented Region 1 so well,” Crockett coach Hayden Chandley said. “Unfortunately, the breaks didn’t go our way tonight and we didn’t make enough plays. Hats off to Knox Central. They made enough, but I love our kids to death and I hate this for them.”
Larkins, a finalist for the Gatorade Class 5A player of the year, finished 14-of-37 passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns. After entering the game with 3,728 passing yards, he ended just 22 yards shy of the 4,000-yard milestone.
He was disappointed with the loss but was still able to appreciate what a special season it was for the Pioneers.
“This senior class, it was the best class to ever come through Crockett,” Larkins said. “This was such an awesome season and it’s a credit to all the hard work the seniors put in. They’ve been through so much the last four years, but this season shows what they put in.”
Central scored on the game’s opening possession when Dakota Fawver hit Demetrien Johnson for a 30-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Pioneers answered with a 10-play, 68-yard drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown from Larkins to Prince Kollie. A missed extra point left the Pioneers down 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bobcats opened the second quarter by scoring on Fawver’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Braden Gaston, and the PAT staked them to a 14-6 lead.
Crockett’s defense prevented the margin from being more by making a pair of big stops later in the quarter, including one at the end of the half.
HARD-FOUGHT SECOND HALF
The teams traded possessions coming out of halftime before the Pioneers pulled within two points on a three-play drive that covered 60 yards.
Larkins and John Kollie connected on a 50-yard pass play that moved the ball to the Central 10. Two plays later, Larkins scrambled and found Micah Robinson in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.
Central tacked on six more points when Johnson took a screen pass around the left side and turned it into a 32-yard touchdown. An unsportsmanlike penalty after the score, however, pushed the Bobcats back to the 17-yard line, and they failed to convert on the 2-point conversion.
After forcing a Crockett three-and-out, the Bobcats mounted a 10-play drive capped by Jarred Swislosky’s 21-yard field goal.
Fawver finished with 160 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Donta Hackler was Crockett’s leading receiver with four catches for 89 yards and Robinson had three catches for 85 yards.
Chandley noted how the Bobcats successfully limited Crockett’s offensive opportunities.
“I don’t know the time of possession, but they kept it from us close to 30 minutes of the game,” he said. “Our defense was put into some bad spots in the first half, but they had some big stops and kept us in it. Our offense was able to move the ball in the fourth quarter, but they’re a great football team, probably the best team we’ve played all year
“It ended up an 11-point game, but until they kicked the last field goal, the game could have gone either way,” Chandley added. “We just came up short, but we can’t let this define us.
“The kids have to know they’ve impacted this community far more than losing a third-round region game.”