Which was more impressive? Was it David Crockett taking a giant step toward a playoff berth, or sophomore quarterback Ryan Burger’s performance for the ages?
In the overall scheme of Pioneers football, both things provided clear evidence of the change occurring at the Jonesborough school.
Burger’s 481 passing yards, 526 yards of total offense, and five touchdown passes Friday night against Volunteer are among the best ever produced in the history of Northeast Tennessee. Putting it in perspective, Burger was only 90 yards short of the all-time national record for total yards in a game.
“It was just amazing,” said Burger on Saturday. “Coach (Jeremy) Bosken gave me a chance to go out there, and (receivers) Eric Day, Luke Hopson and D.J. Britton did a great job. It wouldn’t have been possible without them.
“I was just worried about the win. All the yards and total offense wouldn’t mean anything without the win.”
Despite Burger’s massive numbers, Crockett still needed a defensive stand on a 2-point conversion to preserve a 43-42 win over the Falcons. The play came with 18 seconds left in the game.
Although the victory didn’t secure a Class 5A playoff berth, five wins is close to a lock. And Crockett stands at 5-3 on the season.
“It’s not 100 percent sure, but I think it secures a playoff spot,” said Bosken. “We talked about it the whole week. This was a chance to make history and live for the moment.”
The moment almost slipped away. Volunteer scored a late touchdown, and went for two points and the win — which is what Bosken said he wanted.
“We knew the 2-point was coming if they scored,” said Bosken. “We ran 83 plays of offense, and they were absolutely gassed. We didn’t think they wanted to go into overtime. We were prepared for it. I hoped they would go for two.”
Volunteer head coach Scott Rider called a play — dive option — that had devastated Crockett’s defense all night long, but Bosken said he believed his team would respond.
“As hard as our seniors work, I had confidence (the Falcons) wouldn’t get it,” said Bosken. “We knew what was on line with the playoffs.”
When Brett Crawford and Shawn Parker took down quarterback Matt Reed five yards away from the end zone, the Pioneers weren’t totally satisfied.
“We think we secured a playoff game, and they’re not happy,” said Bosken. “Before we would have been celebrating and jumping for joy. I don’t know if it was a sigh of relief, but our kids thought we deserved it. Volunteer played a great game, but this is a testament to how far we’ve come.”
Watching from the sideline on the 2-point conversion was difficult, said Burger.
“It was hectic,” he said. “I was as nervous as you can get. I knew our defense could do it. When we stopped them, it was a big relief.”
It didn’t look like Crockett would need the late-game heroics, jumping out to a 24-7 lead in the first quarter. But the lead wilted to 24-21 at halftime, and the Pioneers needed every one of those passing yards by Burger — who completed 27 of 42 passes with just one interception.
Crockett also got superb production from the receivers. Day had 12 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns, Hopson hauled in nine balls for 117 yards, and Britton had three catches for 136 yards.
Bosken said the passing game is starting to come together nicely.
“I guess as the season goes on, they’re getting to know each other,” said Bosken. “Their timing and execution was so beautiful. It wasn’t busted plays (by the defense), it was a great job executing. (The Falcons) were dropping nine into coverage, but Burger was just going through his progressions. The pass protection was great, and we had zero sacks.”
Now the Pioneers get a week off before a home contest against Tennessee High. Bosken said his players will approach the game as a chance for first place of sorts.
“We’re telling the kids we’re playing to be the No. 1 Class 5A team in the conference,” said Bosken. “We’re playing to be relevant again. The kids understand what is at stake. With six wins, we might get a home playoff game.