KINGSPORT – One player can make a world of difference. Just ask the Cherokee Chiefs.
Collin Trent, who missed last season with a knee injury as the Chiefs struggled to a 1-9 record, scored four touchdowns, including the game-winner, and threw for another to lead Cherokee to a thrilling 32-30 non-conference victory over Sullivan South Friday night at Carl Matherly Stadium.
“You know, number 8 helps a lot,” noted Cherokee coach Cody Baugh of his senior quarterback. “I’m not going to lie. When he’s on the field, everybody’s confidence is better.”
“He’s just one of those special kids that makes a lot of things happen.”
“He’s a good player,” added South coach Justin Hilton of Trent. “You can see why he was the difference-maker when he got hurt. I mean, they’re a totally different ball team when he’s in there.”
Julian Reed took a pitchout, scampered around the right end, and outran the Chiefs’ defense 78 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion failed but South held a 30-26 lead with 3:31 left.
Cherokee quickly responded, driving 60 yards in just five plays. Trent rambled into the end zone from 13 yards out to put the Chiefs up 32-30. Their two-point try also was no good.
The Rebels had one final shot but Cherokee stopped South’s last-minute rally to notch its second win of the season and remain unbeaten.
“After going 1-9, you start 2-0, no matter how it happens, you’re excited,” Baugh said.
The Chiefs (2-0) took advantage of a Rebels’ special teams miscue when the ball was snapped over the head of South punter Colby Light, who recovered the loose ball at his own 26-yard-line. Seven plays later, Trent took it in for the touchdown and Cherokee jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
The Rebels tied the score at 7-7 in the second quarter when Reed ran it in from 15 yards out. The Chiefs reclaimed the lead on Trent’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Conner Smith.
South (0-2) drove deep into Cherokee territory before it settled for a field goal. Sophomore kicker Eli Iacino drilled a 29-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to trim the deficit to 14-10 at the intermission.
“We felt like the field goal got us a little momentum back going into halftime,” explained Hilton. “We knew if we could come out and get a stop on that first drive, get the ball back, maybe go down and score, put a little pressure on them and to see what they were going to do.”
That’s exactly what happened. The Rebels’ defense stopped Cherokee on fourth down at the South 22-yard-line. The Rebels then marched 78 yards in seven plays with Reed running in from 16 yards out to give South its first lead of the young season at 17-14.
The Chiefs answered immediately when Trent called his own number and went for a 74-yard scoring jaunt to put Cherokee back on tap at 20-17 after a failed extra point.
Reed broke loose again on a 34-yard scoring run to put the Rebels back out in front 24-20 with :14 left in the third quarter. But Trent called his own number and scored with 3:53 left in the contest to give the Chiefs a 26-24 advantage, which set the stage for the exciting finish.
Trent has a high-powered arm and can fling it all over place. But against the Rebels, he focused on running the ball. The senior signal-caller carried the ball 18 times for 155 yards and four scores while he completed 14 of 27 passes for 112 yards and another touchdown.
“The run was open,” Trent commented. “Plus, they had a huge defensive line. They were big, but weren’t fast. And so I knew I could get out on the edge and outrun and that’s what I did.”
“Coach Baugh gave me the green light and I took advantage of it.”
“He understands their offense,” Hilton said of Trent. “He was doing a really good job of working the sticks. They were running those little stop routes and hitting the timing patterns.”
“But what was really impressive was the way he runs the read option. He’d hold that ball in there almost like an old veer quarterback of the 80’s or 90’s and just wait until you collapsed on the defense and pull it and get around the edge.”
Reed was equally spectacular for the Rebels. The senior running back rushed for 268 yards on 23 carries and four touchdowns. South also got a strong second half performance from quarterback Ethan Bergeron.
The sophomore overcame a shaky start to rush for 58 yards on nine carries and provide a spark to the Rebels’ offense, which struggled mightily in its opener against Daniel Boone.
But perhaps Bergeron’s most important contribution was an attitude that will set the tone for the rest of the season for the Rebels.
“We played four quarterbacks tonight,” Hilton stated. “Ethan Bergeron gets pulled on the first play of the game when he fumbles the snap. Gets put on the sideline. He could have hung his head. He could have pouted. He could have listened to the naysayers.”
“But you know what he did? He went over there and cheered for the kid who went out there and then when his number was called he stepped right back in...He was putting his head down and running the football and was trying to will us to a win.”
“We can win football games with people like that.”
Cherokee will look to remain undefeated when it hosts Morristown East next Friday night in the Chiefs’ home opener. Meanwhile, South will travel to Rutledge where it faces Grainger County in its conference opener.
And the Rebels just may be finding their identity.
“We’ve grown up,” Hilton observed. “We’ve got to continue to grow up because we’ve got a conference game and everything we want to do is still ahead of us. We just can’t go undefeated.”
“We’re going into the conference. We need to come out against Grainger and keep improving.”
1 2 3 4 FINAL
Cherokee 7 7 6 12 32
Sullivan South 0 10 14 6 30
CHEROKEE — Collin Trent 5 run (Peter Egbert kick)
SULLIVAN SOUTH — Julian Reed 15 run (Eli Iacino kick)
CHEROKEE — Conner Smith 29 pass from Collin Trent (Peter Egbert kick)
SULLIVAN SOUTH — Eli Iacino 29 FG
SULLIVAN SOUTH — Julian Reed 16 run (Eli Iacino kick)
CHEROKEE — Collin Trent 74 run (kick failed)
SULLIVAN SOUTH — Julian Reed 34 run (Eli Iacino kick)
CHEROKEE — Collin Trent 10 run (pass failed)
SULLIVAN SOUTH — Julian Reed 78 run (pass failed
CHEROKEE — Collin Trent 13 run (kick blocked)
First Downs 19 18
Rushing Att-Yards 27-193 44-366
Passes Comp-Att-Int 15-28-0 3-6-0
Passing Yards 117 31
Total Offense 310 397
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-0
Penalties/Yards 1-5 9-73
Punts-Average 1-35.0 2-30.0