Knox Halls (5-5) will visit the undefeated Pioneers (10-0) in the first round of the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs, but Red Devils’ head coach Jeremy Bosken won’t be on the sidelines because he will serve a suspension for being ejected last week in the game against Seymour.
“I can’t be there during the game, but as soon as the final whistle blows I will be there and find some of their kids, love on them, and enjoy the moment,” said Bosken.
In other Class 5A battles, Daniel Boone plays host to Corryton Gibbs while Tennessee High travels to take on South-Doyle. All games are set for kickoff at 7 o’clock.
Bosken was the Pioneers’ head coach from 2013-16. He coached as an assistant at Cleveland in 2017 before taking over at Halls prior to this season.
“The appeals and everything went through,” said Bosken on Thursday. “I won’t be there, but it looks like we will get some kids back. I was ejected for arguing that there were no punches thrown, which the video supports. But the TSSAA said my ejection was a judgment call and they couldn’t overturn it.”
Bosken said preparing the game plan to meet his old team has been a gift and a curse.
“You watch film and you’re proud to see what those guys have done,” said Bosken. “But it’s a curse when you’re on the other side and say, ‘How do we defend this?’ ”
Halls is led by wide receiver and cornerback Sheldon James. Other key players include 6-foot-5 receiver Ethan Campbell, who was fourth in the state in the high jump last year, and workhorse running back Tyler Holmes.
Also, sophomore quarterback Ty Humphrey is averaging 200 yards passing per game.
“He kind of reminds you of (former Crockett quarterback) Ryan Burger,” said Bosken.
Bosken said he believes his team is coming together.
“It has been a lot of fun,” he said. “It reminds me of my first year at Crockett.”
Crockett, which is 10-0 for the first time in school history, is a heavy favorite. The Pioneers boast Class 5A Mr. Football semifinalist Cade Larkins at quarterback, and plenty of skill-position threats at his disposal.
Larkins is enjoying a record-setting season. He has passed for 3,172 yards and needs 249 more to move into 10th place on the state’s all-time list for a single season. He also has 36 touchdown passes.
Unfamiliarity will be one of Daniel Boone’s opponents.
“Gibbs runs the flexbone offense like Georgia Tech, so that is an advantage in itself simply because you don’t see that a lot,” said Boone head coach Jeremy Jenkins, whose team enters with a record of 8-2 while Gibbs is 6-4. “It is a ball-control offense and they try to hit you with some deep shots. So you have to play assignment football and read your keys.”
There is a potential for a fast game as Boone also likes to keep the ball on the ground. In the regular season finale against Cherokee, Boone had three running backs go over the 100-yard mark, including Charlie Cole, the Trailblazers’ 1,000-yard rusher.
Among the standouts for the Eagles is quarterback Dalton Wright.
Gibbs, which won six games in a row before a 46-0 loss to Knox Central to close the regular season, also provides a threat with its defense, said Jenkins.
“They are very opportunistic on defense and love to get penetration with their front,” he said. “They have created some turnovers, so we have to do a good job taking care of the ball.”
Jenkins said he believes his team is ready.
“I don’t see the nerves, but our kids are anxious at the opportunity to host a playoff game,” said Jenkins. “Our players and staff have worked really hard to have this opportunity and I expect us to play well.”