Crockett's Luke Hopson finds running room (Lee Talbert/Press Photo Editor)
David Crockett began the Jeremy Bosken era with fireworks – on and off the field.
Senior Dalton Brown and freshman TK Hill each rushed for more than 100 yards and a touchdown and Ryan Burger passed for 217 yards and ran for a TD as the Pioneers opened the season with a 27-6 home victory against Sullivan East on Thursday.
It was an outcome worthy of the energized setting, which included $750 worth of fireworks. They were shot off before and after the game, and after each Pioneers touchdown, much to the delight of an overflow crowd.
“This (atmosphere) is amazing,” said Toby Rupert, who recovered a blocked punt in the end zone to give the Pioneers a 14-6 lead with 2:20 left in the first half. “I’m a sophomore and this is my first varsity game ever. … I could feel a pulse all over me.”
Indeed, Burger said he might’ve been too pumped up early. East intercepted three passes in the red zone in the first half, though Bosken took the blame.
“I’m getting a little greedy in the red zone,” Bosken said, “instead of just letting our guys play football.”
Crockett’s defense made miscues irrelevant. Brown’s 3-yard TD run and T.J. Martin’s PAT with 4:45 left in the first quarter proved to be all the scoring the Pioneers needed.
East was outgained 490-87, and was held to 13 yards total offense in the second half. Senior defensive linemen Colt Jenkins and Evan Rolla and junior linebackers Chevy Miller and Jeremiah Leonard were among the Pioneers with multiple tackles for loss.
Bosken said Jenkins, Rolla and fellow defensive linemen Preston Tilson, Collin Eldridge and Rupert have probably improved more than any unit since the spring.
“They call themselves the Lev Sled Mafia, because we live on the machine over there,” Bosken said. “They take pride in working together, and they just wanna protect Shawn (Parker) and Chevy … and let them play fast. … The way our defense and Coach (Chuck) Sutton and Coach (Malcolm) Foreman and them are doing right now – that game-plan was awesome.”
Burger passed for 174 yards in the first half. He opened the game with four straight completions for 60 yards – two to Eric Day and one apiece to Troy White and Luke Hopson – before East freshman cornerback Gunner Griffith made a difficult leaping interception in the end zone.
But Crockett got the ball back less than two minutes later, and drove 46 yards for Brown’s TD. A key play on the drive was Burger’s 12-yard pass to D.J. Britton, which converted a fourth-and-6 to the East 9-yard line.
The Patriots put together a 66-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. The big play on the march was Justin Parks’ 33-yard screen pass to Jamerson Roberts, and power back Nelson Elliott’s 1-yard run got East within 7-6 with 6:13 left in the half. The PAT kick was wide left.
Special teams were an adventure for Sullivan East. The Patriots fumbled a punt, had another one partially blocked and a third one that Jake Wells blocked into the end zone for Rupert’s score.
“Jake did all the work and I stole the credit,” Rupert said.
Hill gave the Pioneers a 21-6 lead with 1:18 left in the third quarter on an impressive 68-yard run. He made several would-be tacklers come up empty.
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound freshman finished with 111 yards on 10 carries. Brown had 20 rushes for 116 yards.
“Hill’s a tough booger,” Bosken said. “And the biggest development for him is just being able to work with Dalton every single day. With Dalton being a senior, he’s great at teaching TK the fundamentals of ball security and reading his keys. I mean, those two together are unbelievable.”
Bosken commended his offensive linemen – Brandon Raines, Tyler Carver, Coy Vaughn, Justin Morrow, Sammy Rankin, Andrew Kyker and Tomas Ojeda. They helped the Pioneers rush for 263 yards, including Burger’s one-yard run that concluded the scoring with 3:38 remaining.
“They just take pride in what they do,” Bosken said. “And when they tell us to run the ball we run the ball.”
Luke Hopson had five receptions for 107 yards, tallying much of the yardage after catches. Eric Day had five catches for 65 yards.
Matt Nixon and Dillon McCroskey made interceptions for East. Dixon returned his 50 yards to the David Crockett 44, and the hustling Burger’s nudge out of bounds appeared to prevent a Dixon touchdown.
East, however, couldn’t move the chains, a recurring theme. While Bosken credited the defense and defensive coaches, Miller suggested Bosken – known for offense – is really part of both sides of scrimmage.
“He just pushes us and sticks with us,” Miller said. “When we’re down he picks us back up and makes us go harder.”
And the work is paying off. Miller and Burger smiled broadly trying to describe the atmosphere. Bosken quickly credited athletic director Josh Kite for the electric scene.
“This ain’t about me,” Bosken said. “This is about these kids. I’m just trying to point them in the right direction.”
Crockett will head to Unicoi County on Aug. 30, when East will visit Unaka.