By Trey Williams
David Crockett must replace record-setting quarterback Ryan Burger and record-setting receiver Eric Day, but still has a skill player rewriting the books in senior running back TK Hill.
The 5-foot-10, 202-pound package of strength and speed enters his final go-round at Crockett as the Pioneers’ all-time leading rusher (2,614 yards). He’s averaged 7.6 yards per carry and 130 yards per game while piling up 33 touchdowns.
“TK can be as good as he wants to be,” said Crockett coach Jeremy Bosken, who enters his fourth season with a 16-16 record. “I like his leadership and work ethic. He’s slimmed down a little bit since last year. He’s a little quicker – and stronger, it seems like. His future is very, very bright.
“He’s definitely an (FCS recruit) kind of kid, no doubt. … He’s a brute force on the field. And he’s got a massive offensive line in front of him.”
Preseason all-state selection Ievan Martin (6-3, 265, Sr.) starts at guard, as does junior Jacob McIntosh. The tackles – Josh Johnston (6-3, 277, Sr.) and Hunter Price (6-4, 300, Jr.) – appear large unless they’re beside senior center Kyle Mann (5-10, 355).
“The last couple of years we’ve been kind of small and quick on the offensive line,” Bosken said. “This year, they’re huge. They’ve lived in the weight room.”
The O-line got a boost at left tackle from tight end-defensive end Austin Lewis (6-6, 220, Jr.). Lewis, who has a 7-foot wingspan, already has an offer from Eastern Kentucky, and Bosken said there’s BCS interest, too. A prospect at defensive end, he’s enthusiastically filled in on the offensive front while Crockett deals with the injury bug.
“He volunteered to play left tackle to help the team out,” Bosken said. “He’s put his personal aspirations aside to help us out and put his hand in the dirt and play some O-line. … He just loves football.”
Senior Cole Ricker (6-0, 180) will start at quarterback, punter and kicker. Bosken likes Ricker’s toughness and leadership. Freshman quarterback Cade Larkins (6-0, 190), who moved from the Plano, Texas area after eighth grade, has turned some heads.
“I wouldn’t say Cole’s looking over his shoulder at all; he’s really helping the kid along,” Bosken said. “He probably will (get some varsity snaps), and I’ve told Cole that. One thing I wish I’d done with Cole last year is create a package or two for Cole just so he could get in the game and get the feel for Friday night lights. We’re gonna have a couple of packages and a couple of plays for Larkins to kind of get the feel of things and different situations.”
Receivers Justin Wade (5-10, 155, Sr.) and Darian Delapp (6-0, 166, Sr.) are exciting players.
“We’ve got some playmakers on the outside,” Bosken said. “Wade’s gonna be everywhere. … He’s as dynamic as anybody you’ll see in the area. I’d say he’s the No. 1 corner in the area.”
Bosken said Delapp will be an all-conference safety and senior strong safety Justin Eib has been starting since he was a sophomore. Cornerback Dylan Royston (6-0, 165, Sr.) should round out the secondary.
Defensive end Mark Seidler (6-2, 195, So.) can rush the passer effectively. The linebacking corps includes seniors Levi Summers and Logan Foster and sophomore John Kollie (5-11, 155).
Crockett, playoff eligible for the first time in three seasons, went 6-5 during a 2015 season highlighted by wins against Daniel Boone (52-26) and Tennessee High (40-26). The Pioneers will open Friday at Mountain Heritage (Burnsville, N.C.), which defeated them 42-28 last year in Jonesborough. Heritage is led by junior quarterback Trey Robinson, who ran 30 times for 266 yards and three touchdowns against Crockett last year after rushing for more than 1,300 yards as a freshman.
“They finished 11-3 last year and ended up running for, like, 4,500 yards,” Bosken said. “They’re gonna pound you and they’re gonna go for it on fourth down just to keep the ball away from you. That’s what they did to us last year. I think we only got 36 offensive plays. They’re well coached and they have a big ole Tebow-style quarterback.”
Crockett was without starters Hill, Martin, Toby Rupert and Ian Martin (Tennessee State) against Heritage last year.
“I don’t think we were quite ready for what they were gonna bring,” Bosken said, “but we are this year.”