Imagine all the things going on underneath Erwin senior Austin Brown’s helmet tonight.
Brown (2,106 yards and 23 touchdowns with six interceptions) has thrown for 6,981 yards the past three years.
That leaves the Warriors quarterback on the brink of bettering the career passing total of one of the biggest names in Western North Carolina football — Swain County legend Heath Shuler (7,098 yards).
After that, maybe Brown will make a run at the WNC all-time record that belongs to 2010 Tuscola graduate Tyler Brosius (7,895 yards).
But a win this evening for Brown and undefeated Erwin (7-0, 3-0) at Roberson (4-3, 2-0) would hold even greater significance – it would mean the best start in school history.
Kickoff is set for 7:30.
Brown and a handful of Warriors seniors were standing at this same crossroads two years ago, having matched their 1962 team’s 7-0 start, only to lose at Roberson, 20-16.
Erwin coach Mike Sexton understands there are distractions that go beyond simply winning a football game, but hopes his team will have tunnel vision.
“We haven’t talked about that stuff,” Sexton said.
“Honestly for us, and I know it sounds like a cliché. But as coaches and players, we try to stay focused on the next game. The next game is the most important game of the season and nothing else matters.”
In a friendly manner, Brown and Roberson senior Reggie Pinner said they have kidded one another over Twitter about who can throw for more yards this season. The two even bonded while attending a football camp at UNC Pembroke last summer.
But it is serious business when two of the state’s most prolific quarterbacks are on the same field.
Pinner (1,910 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions) is a first-year varsity starter who has also run for a team-high 289 yards. The majority of his passes have been directed to Marcus Jenkins (35 receptions for 560 yards and nine touchdowns), Alex Talley (32 receptions for 438 yards and two touchdowns), Zach Dollinger (30 receptions for 480 yards and eight touchdowns) and Ben Warren (21 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns).
The Rams’ leading tacklers are Jacob Deaton (73), Dollinger (57) and Patrick Gilliam (55).
“(Pinner) is tremendous and he’s got tremendous receivers, too,” Sexton said.
“They’re capable of putting up a lot of yardage and a lot of points. They can strike at any time. And defensively, it’s the same solid, hard-hitting T.C. defense that you’re used to seeing. You’d rather have a big game like this at home. But I feel confident that our guys, home or away, will come ready to play.”
Erwin is one of just 19 undefeated teams left in NCHSAA football, and there are plenty of reasons for that.
Brown’s favorite receivers have been Jonathan Allen (45 receptions for 722 yards and eight touchdowns), Jordan Tigar (26 receptions for 433 yards and five touchdowns), Tyler Sullins (19 receptions for 209 yards and one touchdowns) and Kelman Simpson (18 receptions for 288 yards and four touchdowns).
Simpson is also the team’s top rusher (695 yards, 15 touchdowns) with more than 1,200 all-purpose yards. The Warriors offense averages a WNC-best 52.7 points a game.
Key defenders are Dakota Wright (71 tackles), Jordan Tigar (54), Mitchell Chancey (53) and DeAngelo Collington (48)
Erwin is No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press 3-A poll and has been the top team in the Citizen-Times Best of the West rankings for eight consecutive weeks.
“We’ll have to play a pretty flawless game,” Roberson coach Jim Beatty said.
“From everything we’ve seen on film, Erwin is a talented team playing with a lot of confidence. They are playing like the No. 1 team in the Best of the West. They have a lot of speed and do a good job of flying around the ball. And Austin is flying around making plays. They’re good, they’re really good.”
Roberson’s game plan for tonight is simple, Beatty said.
“We’ve got to make (the Erwin offense) drive the ball,” he said.
“When they catch the ball short, we’ve got to make tackles and see if they can drive the ball. We haven’t seen anyone make them do that yet. They’re going to get their plays and get their catches, but we’ve got to prevent the big play. One of our goals was to have a shot at a conference championship, and get to this point undefeated (in the MAC) with Erwin coming in. I hope we can show people what we can do.”
Tonight’s teams are two of three which have yet to lose a MAC game — Asheville High (5-2, 2-0) is the other one.