Two things seem pretty certain about David Crockett's journey to Knoxville.
One, the Pioneers are going to have a whale of a tough time winning. Two, they are going to enjoy the experience of the second playoff game in school history just the same.
“We're excited about it,” said Crockett first-year head coach Jeremy Bosken. “This is probably the first time these kids have played outside the Tri-Cities. And they get to experience a championship program.”
The Pioneers (5-5) will visit Knox West (9-1) in the opening round of the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs tonight. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 o'clock, 30 minutes earlier than the regular season start time.
In another Class 5A game, Tennessee High plays host to South-Doyle. In Class 3A, Johnson County visits Chuckey-Doak while Sullivan North is at home to take on Pigeon Forge.
And in Class 1A, Unaka hits the road to battle Midway.
West's lone loss came at the hands of Class 6A power Maryville. At the forefront of the Rebels' attack is speedy running back Nathan Cottrell, who has racked up 1,377 yards rushing with 19 total touchdowns — including three kickoff returns.
Quarterback Seth Marshall has 1,321 total yards and 13 touchdowns.
“They are probably one of the best teams regardless of classification,” said Bosken. “What we've stressed is we've got to get better playing with each other, and not focusing on who we are against. We need to get better at communication, and the way we play as a team.
“This is the second time in school history we've been to the playoffs. Obviously it's not the best situation to be a No. 7 seed. But we're trying to lay a foundation. We're excited to see what these kids have accomplished in eight months.”
Crockett is led by quarterback Ryan Burger, who has thrown for 2,333 yards. Receiver Luke Hopson has 64 catches for 925 yards while Eric Day has 53 receptions for 795 yards.
South-Doyle (6-4) at Tennessee High (6-4) — The Vikings really hit their stride in last year's postseason, surprising Daniel Boone before upsetting Morristown West. Knox Powell clipped the Vikings in the quarterfinals.
This year, Tennessee High enters as a favorite, although a small one. Leading the way is quarterback Peyton Henley, who has thrown for 2,145 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Quarterback Brody Rollins is the Cherokee's biggest threat.
Johnson County (4-6) at Chuckey-Doak (7-3) — The Longhorns earned their stripes this season with a tough schedule, and that's why four wins were good enough to reach the postseason.
They even managed to avoid Alcoa or Gatlinburg-Pittman in the first round, although the Black Knights don't figure to be a bargain.
Patrick South is the Longhorns' workhorse, with 1,318 yards rushing on a conference-leading 227 carries.
Doak is led by senior running back Tyler Coe, who has gained 1,955 yards this season. Nick Sandstrom is another key runner.
Pigeon Forge (5-5) at Sullivan North (6-4) — The Raiders have been a postseason threat for several years, although this year's team lacks the level of offensive firepower from years' past.
Jacob Jasper is the biggest threat in North's ground-oriented offense with 975 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns.
Quarterback Tanner Sharp is a key player for the Tigers.
Unaka (4-6) at Midway (7-3) — The Rangers will have their hands full with Green Wave quarterback Shandon Lyle.
The senior has totaled 2,568 yards of offense and accounted for 27 touchdowns. Lyle has passed for 1,472 yards.
Austin Anderson averages 17.2 tackles a game for the Rangers. The 6-5, 215-pound senior also leads the team in rushing despite not starting at tailback until game six, and has over 700 yards rushing. Unaka is 4-1 since moving Anderson to tailback.