As Collin Trent goes, so go the Cherokee Chiefs. And right now, Trent is going strong.
The talented senior accounted for all four touchdowns Friday night at Burke-Toney Stadium as the Chiefs remained unbeaten with a 27-23 comeback victory over Morristown East.
And putting points on the scoreboard wasn’t all Trent did as he came up with his second interception of the game at the Cherokee 3-yard line to end a last-ditch East rally with 13.8 seconds left.
In was the third victory for the Chiefs while the Hurricanes slipped to 0-3 in the region opener for both schools.
East led for most of the first three quarters before Trent scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to put Cherokee ahead for the first time with 10:46 left in the game.
However, Cole Henson fired a 6-yard scoring pass to Trevor Malone with 3:39 remaining to shove the Hurricanes back into the lead at 23-20.
But Trent took the Chiefs 62 yards in 8 plays and scored himself as he weaved his way through the East defense for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:08 to go.
Henson tried to rally the ‘Canes again. He ran for two first downs and passed to Evan Seals and Shaffer Harville for two more. But Trent made a great leaping interception to finish off his fantastic performance on a first down play from the Chiefs’ 28.
Cherokee coach Cody Baugh said, “Collin is just a special kid. He’s a great athlete and is very determined when it comes to winning football games. At halftime he told his teammates ‘I’ve got you guys, we’re going to make this second half better. And then then he went out there and did it.”
Baugh went on to say, “We struggled in a lot of ways in the first half. Our line is really young and I challenged them at halftime because we knew we had to run the ball to win this game and that’s what we set out to do in the third quarter. We were successful with that.
“Even with the mistakes in the first half, we didn’t quit and we fought through it and found a way to win.
“These last two wins have been nail-biters right down to the end and these guys have prevailed,” Baugh said. “It’s exciting, it’s nerve-wracking but it’s so great to see these guys work through a lot of things to win games.
“We had a rough season last year after Collins got hurt. We were so close so many times but this season we’ve already won a couple of really close games. The kids have worked really hard for me and to get a chance to see them celebrate a win is awesome.”
Trent ran for 85 yards on 11 carries and completed 11-of-24 passes for 187 and the other 2 scores. He tossed TD passes of 23 yards to Trent Price and 6 yards to Smith. His other interception came at the Cherokee 2 to stop an East drive.
Henson also had a great night as he was 15-of-19 for 157 and 2 touchdowns. Freshman Ethan Ledford carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards. Evan Seals caught 5 passes for 68 yards including a 61-yard touchdown. Henson threw to seven different receivers on the night.
East coach Caleb Slover said, “It’s frustrating for all of us for the kids to battle their tails off and not have any wins to show for it.
“We came out and played well in the first half and then we had an almost dead third quarter,” he continued. “We got a turnover right off the bat but we didn’t go down and score and I think it just kind of sucked the wind out of us.”
Slover said his team’s main problem is, “We need to learn how to win. Right now, we don’t know how to win. I’ll take the blame for that and for the play calls.
“But we’ll go back to work in trying to get better,” he said. “The kids will keep their heads up and do all the things they’re supposed to do. But we have to find a way to put a combination together for four quarters to get a win.
“Tonight we had a lot of chances to make plays and score but we didn’t and we had so many chances to get off the field on defense and didn’t take advantage of them.
Slover said Trent had a big game. “We talked all week about if we made little mental mistakes that he would make us pay for it and he did just that. We did a pretty good job against him for the most part but he made the plays he needed to make to win.
“We just have to keep our morale high, get back to work and find a way to win.”
The first half was more of a penalty fest than a football game. Cherokee had 11 penalties for 95 yards and East had 9 for 79. It seemed the two teams couldn’t get much done except watch the yards being marked off.
Cherokee threatened first as Trent hit passes of 21 yards to Price and 15 to Brayden Collins for a first down at the East 13. However, the Hurricanes’ Jacob Williams made a tackle for a six-yard loss and the Chiefs turned it over on downs at the 19.
Three plays later, East was in the end zone. Henson found a wide-open Seals who caught the ball on the run and took it 61 yards to paydirt. Gerson Sorto kicked the point after with 3:40 left in the first.
However, Trent brought the Chiefs straight down the field to tie the score. He ran for 18, passed to Jonas Leeper for 23 and even caught one of his own passes that was batted into the air. The points came when he connected with Price out of the backfield for a 23-yard strike down the middle of the field.
Peter Egbert, who knocked three of his kickoffs into the end zone, kicked the point after with 11.8 seconds left in the first period.
East got three first downs before Trent came up with his first pick. However, three plays later, East’s C.J. Livesay stepped in front of a receiver for an interception and returned it 30 yards with a personal foul penalty tacked on to that to set East up at the Cherokee 16.
It took five plays with Ledford getting his first career TD on a 2-yard run. Sorto kicked the point after with 4:08 left in the half.
The Chiefs let the kickoff bounce thinking it was going out of bounds and had to start at their own seven. An illegal receiver downfield penalty moved it back to the four and on the next play a holding call in the end zone resulted in a safety to give the Hurricanes a 16-7 lead at halftime.
Seals recovered a fumble at the Cherokee 43 on the first snap of the second half. Henson completed a pass to Malone for what would have been a first down at the Chiefs’ 30 but it was called back because of a holding penalty and East punted.
The visitors then went 86 yards in 13 plays. Trent had runs of 14 and 11 and capped the drive with a 6-yard TD to Smith with 3:29 left in the third. Egbert kicked the point with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
East punted again and Trent passed to Leeper for 35 yards to set up his 1-yard sneak that put the Chiefs in front. A 2-point pass attempt was stopped short by East’s Ryan Harris.
The ‘Canes took the kickoff and went 80 yards in 13 plays. Henson was 5 of 5 for 53 yards including the 6-yard TD to Malone to put East ahead for the final time.
In the winning drive, Trent hit back-to-back passes of 13 and 21 yards to Smith with a roughing the passer penalty tacked on to the second one. He scored on the next play.
Chiefs 27, Hurricanes 23
Cherokee 7 0 7 13— 27
Morristown East 7 9 0 7— 23
ME - Evan Seals 61-pass from Cole Henson (Gerson Sorto kick)
C - Trent Price 23-pass from Collin Trent (Peter Egbert kick)
ME - Ethan Ledford 2-run (Sorto kick)
ME - Safety (Cherokee called for holding in end zone)
C - Connor Smith 6-pass from Trent (Egbert kick)
C - Trent 1-run (pass failed)
ME - Trevor Malone 6-pass from Henson (Sorto kick)
C - Trent 13-run (Egbert kick)
First Down 11 15
Rushes-yards 26-105 38-140
Passing 186 157
Att-Comp-Int 24-11-1 19-15-2
Total Offense 291 297
Punts 1-17 4-32
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 14-105 12-114