If Thursday night's Division III state championship game was any indication of how Joe Burrow is going to perform on the Ohio Stadium field over the next four years, Buckeye fans should buy tickets now while they still can.
Burrow's Athens Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season to Toledo Central Catholic, 56-52, in what will go down as one of the all-time great state championship games in Ohio high school history, but it was the future Buckeye's performance which turned heads as he threw the ball all around the field like he was playing 7-on-7.
Burrow finished the day 26 for 45 for 446 yards with an OHSAA record-tying six touchdown passes. He also carried the ball 10 times for 69 yards. But it was the one blemish he had that stuck with him most.
“The pick, first and foremost," Burrow said. "That’s the only thing I’ll be thinking about for a while.”
Burrow's interception at the end of the third quarter was only the second he had thrown all season. It was his only mistake in an otherwise show-stopping performance on his future field.
“We just didn’t make enough plays," Burrow said. "I threw a pick and can’t do that in these kind of games."
With his team trailing, 49-45, with 5 minutes, 11 seconds remaining, Burrow took the field to try and lead his team to a victory. He marched the Bulldogs all the way down the field as they scored what they thought would be the winning touchdown with just under three minutes remaining.
But it just wasn't meant to be. Toledo Central Catholic converted three fourth downs on the ensuing drive, including a game-winning touchdown run on fourth-and-1 with just 15 seconds remaining.
“Nothing matters except that loss," Burrow said. "We put in all the hard work to get here we just didn’t end up making enough plays at the end.”
But Burrow's season — and career for that matter — has been full of plenty of good plays. He's had a historic run.
He finished his year with 4,413 passing yards and 63 touchdowns. He was awarded Mr. Football on Wednesday and Thursday he was named Ohio's Gatorade Player of the Year for the second straight season.
“I’ll be quite honest with you, Joe is obviously one of the greatest competitors I have ever met," Athens coach Ryan Adams said. "I’ve been around a lot of people and a lot of walks of life and that’s the biggest thing I can say about Joe is just what a competitor he is. He’s certainly elevated a lot of people around him over the years."
That competitiveness was evident from the look on his face after his team had just experienced heartbreak. But even in defeat, Burrow was quick to credit those around him for all of his success throughout his career at Athens.
“They’re fantastic and they’ve been fantastic all season," he said. "I credit all of them for all of my achievements. Mr. Football, that’s a team award. Gatorade Player of the Year, that’s a team award and they played great tonight.”