In some seasons there wasn’t anything to play for in the Musket Bowl except school pride, but the game was still the talk of Washington County.
This year, David Crockett appears to be headed for the Class 5A playoffs and Daniel Boone is still clinging to a faint hope of getting there. So the competitive spirit should be at fever pitch tonight in Gray with kickoff scheduled for 7:30.
In another area game in the spotlight, Hampton and Cloudland play for the Mountain East Conference title. Also, Unicoi County travels to play Sullivan Central, and Happy Valley visits Sullivan North.
Boone, 2-3 in the Big Seven Conference and 3-6 overall, comes in limping with a five-game losing streak. Crockett (2-3, 5-4) is coming off a loss to Tennessee High, but has won three of its last four.
The Trailblazers have won 10 straight games in this rivalry with Crockett’s last win coming in 2002.
Despite Boone’s struggles lately, Crockett head coach Jeremy Bosken said it hasn’t made the Trailblazers any easier to beat.
“They’ve been through a tough stretch, but from what we’ve seen on film they get better every week,” said Bosken. “They are well-coached. They put up a fight every game.”
Boone head coach Jeremy Jenkins said he knows his team will be challenged by Crockett’s offense, which is averaging 407 yards per game.
“They’ve thrown it for about 2,000 and rushed for about 1,600, so they are pretty balanced,” said Jenkins. “When they throw the football they get it out quick, so we’ve got to do a good job tackling in space. They’ve got some big receivers.”
Crockett quarterback Ryan Burger, a sophomore, has thrown for 2,062 yards on the season. He is battling Tennessee High’s Peyton Henley (2,043 yards) for the league’s passing championship, but Burger’s 12 touchdown tosses are negated somewhat by 19 interceptions — including seven in last week’s 41-6 loss to Tennessee High.
“Burger is a young quarterback,” said Bosken. “As long as we take care of the football and do what we need to do, any game that has been close we’ve pulled out the W. It goes back to game management from an offensive point of view.”
Burger’s top two receiving threats are Luke Hopson (60 catches for 888 yards) and Eric Day (47 catches for 721 yards).
With all of that firepower in the air, Jenkins said he wants his team to shorten the game a little.
“The weather will probably dictate a lot, and the field will probably be sloppy,” said Jenkins. “We would love to milk some clock, and keep their offense on the sideline. And we’ve got to score touchdowns.”
Bosken said he’s looking forward to his first Musket Bowl.
“I had breakfast at the Telford Diner, and people were excited,” said Bosken. “They want the musket back on this side of the county. The community excitement has been really surprising.”
Hampton (6-3) at Cloudland (9-0) — A few weeks ago, this game looked like it wouldn’t be a lot of trouble for the Highlanders.
But the Bulldogs started playing well, and now the rivalry part of the game feeds into the possibility of an upset.
Certainly Hampton will be hard-pressed to stop Cloudland’s duo of quarterback Austin Whitehead and running back Colby Birchfield.
However, Hampton has some playmakers of its own in quarterback Coby Jones, receiver Dylan Ford, and freshman running back Adam McClain.
Unicoi County (3-6) at Sullivan Central (3-6) — A playoff berth is still a possibility, but the Blue Devils must pull off the road win.
The Blue Devils are 5-15 all-time against the Cougars, but boast a strong running presence in junior Luke Fronckoski. He has rushed for 1,394 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
Happy Valley (2-3, 4-5) at Sullivan North (3-2, 5-4) — The Raiders can’t really throw the ball (averaging 23 yards passing per game), but they run it well with Jacob Jasper leading the way.
Jasper has rushed for 934 yards and 13 scores.
Meanwhile, the Warriors like to keep it on the ground — especially in the hands of Phillip Garland, who currently leads the Three Rivers with 1,502 yards rushing and is tied for the lead in scoring with 16 touchdowns.
One thing that could give the Warriors an upset hope is the consistent play of quarterback Tyler Marlowe. He has completed 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 667 yards and four touchdowns.
Volunteer (1-4, 1-8) at Tennessee High (3-2, 5-4) — It seems like an easy breeze as a playoff tuneup for the Vikings, but at least the Falcons are coming off their first win of the season.
Johnson County (1-4, 3-6) at Sullivan East (0-5, 1-8) — It has been a rough season for the Longhorns, but the playoffs are still within reach. They have to take care of business against the Patriots and get some help.
Unaka (2-3, 3-6) at Cosby (1-4, 1-7) — Like Johnson County, the Rangers are still at least holding on to playoff dreams. They enter this game as a slight favorite, but it’s never easy on the road — especially with a long trip.
Greeneville (4-0, 9-0) at Cumberland Gap (0-4, 2-7) — It’s playoff-tuneup time for the Greene Devils, who got their challenge out of the way last week.