By MIKE BLACKERBY
Elijah Young’s impact on South-Doyle football goes well beyond the staggering numbers.
His career helped change the perception of the way they play football South of the River.
South-Doyle’s recent foundation of success was in place when Young arrived.
But in terms of achievement and notoriety, he took the lead in elevating the program to another level.
South-Doyle coach Clark Duncan said Young, the 2019 5Star Preps Offensive Player of the Year, leaves an unmatched legacy.
“It was 2013-14 when we really started to come of age and were starting to be considered one of the teams to contend with,” said Duncan.
“A lot of people, like Brody Rollins and Joc Bruce, had impacts on the program back then. But Elijah brought nationwide attention to the program.”
Indeed he did.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Young was the 2019 Gatorade State Player of the Year in Tennessee.
He also garnered Mr. Football honors in Class 5A after rushing for 2,170 yards and scoring 39 touchdowns.
Young signed with Missouri and is already enrolled in school in Columbia as he prepares for his freshman season in 2020.
“It was not just the numbers, but the way Elijah carried himself and impacted the program,” said Duncan.
“He has elevated us and elevated our players’ expectations. I’m extremely proud of Elijah and what he has done for the program.”
Young deflected any credit for his part in taking the program to another level.
He said it was a true team effort.
“I just remember the bond we built and the brotherhood,” said Young.
If anything, Young said he hopes he passed down a sense of stewardship for the other players to keep the program in its lofty perch.
“The other players are ready to take over now. I just want to see what they’re going to do.”
Young well remembers when it was his turn to step forward as a young player.
It was his freshman season in 2016, and Young was forced to step in at tailback in the playoffs against Morristown West when star runner Kent-Ta Tanner was injured.
“Kent-Ta was having a phenomenal year and he broke his ankle in the first quarter of the Morristown West game,” said Duncan.
“Elijah was thrown into the first and, my gosh, he proved himself that game and helped us beat Morristown West.”
Young said that experience gave him the confidence he needed and catapulted his career.
“I thought I could play, but I did not know (for sure) at all,” said Young.
“I just knew I had a responsibility. I really had to put my big-boy pants on.”
Young put his big-boy britches on as a freshman and never took them over.
He led the Cherokees to a 9-4 record this season and a heartbreaking 20-16 loss to eventual state champion Central in the quarterfinals.
South-Doyle also lost to eventual state champion Farragut in the 2016 semifinals.
Looking back, Duncan said it was the beginning of a legend.
“We’ve got young kids who want to be the next Elijah Young,” said Duncan.
“Elijah is going to be known and well remembered for a lifetime in South Knoxville, not just because he was such a great player but because he was so well liked.”