Nothing is average about these Bears

WAYNESBORO, Ga. --- Bobby Burum can be so hard on himself.


He expects perfection, and when one thing goes wrong on the football field, he hastily accepts blame, sometimes refusing to recognize the real source of the error.

"I get down, go in the tank, things like that," the Burke County senior said.

But Burum's refusal to sulk when he wasn't awarded the team's quarterback position and Terrell Brigham's rise as one of the best quarterbacks in the area have Burke County talking about a state title. The Bears (8-3), riding a record-setting offense, travel to unbeaten Cairo today for a 7:30 p.m. second-round Class AAA playoff game.

The Bears are averaging the second-most points per game in school history (27.9, just behind the 29.5 average in 1991). They've scored at least 34 points the past three games, including a 42-point outburst in their playoff opener, which was by far the most points Burke County has ever scored in the postseason.

What's more, the Bears have scored those points against what coach Eric Parker described before the season as the "toughest schedule in school history."

Last spring, it didn't seem like the Bears would become a team that moved the ball down the field so effortlessly.

Quarterback Tyler Hammett was about to graduate. Burum, his backup, estimated he attempted five passes all of 2007, and he was set to miss half of spring practice to compete in the state track meet in the high jump (he placed eighth with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches).

Brigham, an elusive wide receiver the previous fall, had occasionally lined up at shotgun, accepted direct snaps, and dashed up the field out of a formation you now see practically every Sunday during the NFL season.

"But I never really thought of myself as a quarterback," he said.

The Bears have found a way to effectively mix power runs with skillful passes with Brigham at the helm.

The result? Brigham, only a junior, has broken more than 10 school records this season, including single-season marks of passing yards, touchdown passes and completion percentage.

Brigham (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) has thrown for 1,547 yards and rushed for 1,079, and he's responsible for 29 total touchdowns.

"Terrell really wanted to do it because it was what the team needed," Parker said. "And he has really gotten it done."

Said Brigham, "We needed someone to step up."

Burum, meanwhile, has become his most reliable receiver. Believing he would still be the team's quarterback as recently as this summer, Burum (6-2, 210) is second in the area with 723 receiving yards. Last week, two of his three receptions went for touchdowns.

"He's matured a lot this year, and when you talk to the coaches here, he's one of the guys we've been the most thrilled with," Parker said. "The truth of the matter is, he's doing what he wants to do."

Burum is comfortable praising and needling Brigham, whom he regularly calls "my little brother."

"He throws quicker, harder, finds the open receiver better than I did ... I know the coaches wanted to put the best (quarterback) there, and I have no problem with that," Burum said.

Laughing, he added, "It all worked out because I'm a better wide receiver than him."

The two regularly try to outdo each other at games of freeze tag, which have become something of a team ritual. It started earlier in the year, when team members gathered at senior Trent Dixon's house for a game of hide-and-seek.

"But nobody really wanted to hide," Burum said.

So, just about every week, the Bears become captivated by a child's game -- dodging, juking and sprinting past their pursuers.

Once they take the field each Friday, they count on more of the same.

"We're not unstoppable yet ... but we're pretty hard to stop," Burum said.



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