FLEMINGSBURG Josh Crump once tried to hurdle a hitting dummy.
The dummy won.
Fleming County’s now-junior quarterback broke his left arm during that middle school practice, but he’s been tearing apart opposing defenses with his right for most of the past two seasons. Crump and the Panthers host Russell at 7:30 p.m. today in a Class 3A, District 5 contest.
In the 13 games since he became the starter with about five minutes to go in regulation of a 33-27 overtime home loss to Rowan County on Sept. 11, 2015, Crump has thrown for 2,538 yards and 32 touchdowns with 15 interceptions.
Junior receiver Zac Alexander said Crump was “crazy, real wild” growing up. Like the dummy vs. quarterback play — something Crump wasn’t going to mention until Alexander did.
“I was in sixth grade,” Crump said. “I didn’t know it was that important. That would be my least favorite memory.”
Panthers coach Bill Spencer remembers that day, too. He heard the commotion near the approximately 45-degree hill the players scale at the end of practice.
“I look up just in time to see (Crump) attempt to hurdle it,” Spencer said. “He didn’t completely clear it. He snapped his arm, and that was that. It kind of gave me the indication how fearless he was sometimes, a risk-taker (who) wasn’t afraid to take risks and do some things.
“At the same time it gave me the insight that I may have to rein him in a little bit. He had a little bit of a wild streak to him.”
Crump said improving his footwork and maturity — not throwing into double or triple coverage — has helped cut down from 2015’s 11 interceptions. He’s running more, too: 27 times for 254 yards and six touchdowns.
“Last year I didn’t run a lot,” Crump said. “You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. If corners and linebackers are playing back, then you’ve gotta run.”
Spencer said Crump piloted Fleming County’s freshman team to an undefeated 2014 season and was on pace to a spotless record on the junior varsity squad before being promoted to varsity. While he’s far from former Panther great Jordan Fritz’s single-season (3,362 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2004) or career (7,799 and 79 from 2003-05) passing records, Crump’s 2016 numbers are nice: he’s completed 69 of 137 (50.3 percent) for 1,212 yards. He has 16 scores and four picks.
Was Crump’s debut as auspicious as, say, Tom Brady replacing Drew Bledsoe on Sept. 23, 2001? To Spencer, it was equally season-changing because Crump was 9-for-17 for 134 yards and three touchdowns.
“From that point on we kinda knew we had something,” Spencer said. “We already knew he had something, but it showed us what kind of competitor he was and how kids would rally around him.”
Just about every football team from 7-year-old PeeWees to the Cincinnati Bengals has a “route tree” for its wide receivers. When fully implemented, the combinations of short (i.e. flat, slant, bubble and drag), medium (out, dig, curl and comeback) and deep (corner, fly and post) patterns look like a leafless sycamore in January.
Crump has always been a quarterback.
“I’ve played football since the first year I could,” he said. “I started out with flag football; my dad (Randy Crump) coached me at the beginning. I was quarterback in PeeWee, middle school.
“Football’s always been my favorite sport.”
Fleming County almost exclusively throws out of the shotgun. While some teams tell their quarterbacks to look at the opponent’s defensive line before the snap, Crump spies the secondary and linebackers first and looks for short passes before longer ones.
“When you first look up, you’ve got to see your open field, where your corners are playin’, if your linebackers are blitzin’ or not, see what coverage they’re in,” Crump said. “Then you see what coverage they’re in, that tells who’s guardin’ who on what routes they have.”
And if a defensive end lines up outside a tackle or tight end?
“Then you’ve gotta know where you’re gonna run to if he rushes you,” Crump said. “You’ve got to feel the pocket.”
Alexander leads Fleming County’s receivers with 21 catches for 399 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Jaden Waller is second with 16 catches for another 275 and four scores.
Crump stays in the pocket as long as he can. He said Jacob Boyd, another Fleming County quarterback and a 2015 graduate, taught him how to take a hit.
“You wait ’til the last second to throw the ball so that receiver gets open,” Crump said. “Sometimes, if you throw it too early, he’s not open.”
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is Crump’s favorite, and while his cheering likely could not be heard in Ewing, Bluebank or Goddard when the Cardinals hammered Florida State, 63-20, on Sept. 17, Crump was excited.
“It was just a good game to watch,” Crump said. “I’m not that big on Louisville’s team, I just like how (Jackson) plays.”
Crump said the deep out toward the sideline for at least 20 yards and 5-yard bubble screens — when a receiver looks for the ball immediately after the snap — are the hardest passes to throw.
“You’ve pretty much got to throw it before they cut and know where they’re gonna be,” Crump said. “Bubble screens, you’re gonna catch that ball and throw it as soon as you catch it.
“ … You’ve got to learn to throw it without the laces. I didn’t really do it until I came into high school.”
You can understand if Alexander is biased when he said Crump throws the most accurate spiral in the region.
“He can lead anybody, he can tell where to throw it, when to throw it,” Alexander said. “He knows exactly their speed, and he can throw it on a dime.”
Most evenings during the season, Crump and, often, his dad watch Fleming County and other teams on hudl.com.
Josh’s favorite routes? The fly and what he calls a “straight hot,” where a receiver takes three steps and turns around.
Beating Russell, 18-7, last year in Flatwoods, is Crump’s favorite football memory.
However, it wasn’t his most prolific; he was just 5-for-10 for 69 yards and a touchdown.
As for today …
“Russell’s the big team in our district,” Crump said. “We hadn’t beaten them in 14 years (before 2015). It’s a big deal to beat Russell.”