Blount Press Row

Wrighting the Ship

Alcoa powers clear of Heritage with second-half run game

Tornado senior Colton Wright is met Heritage defensive back Tyler Thomas as Wright crosses the goal line on Friday. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Jonathan Perelman
Blount Press Row

Alcoa scored a touchdown on five drives against Heritage on Friday night. On those drives, the Tornadoes ran the ball on 31 of 36 plays.

All-State kicker Ben Smith added a pair of field goals of 40 and 43 yards, and No. 1-ranked Alcoa pulled clear in the second half for a 41-14 win.

Taylen McNear's 27-yard second half scoring run lit Alcoa's fuse.

Taylen McNear’s 27-yard scoring run lit Alcoa’s fuse.

Halfback Colton Wright, 96 yards and touchdown on 16 carries, and fullback Malik Salter, did a lot of the heavy lifting in a 287-yard rushing night. It was shifty 5-foot-7 senior Taylen McNear, however, who lit Alcoa’s fuse in the second half with a 27-yard cutback run for a 17-7 lead.

Quarterback Jaylen Myers scored on runs of 18 and 3 yards as the Tornadoes (5-1) muscled their way clear in the second half after a 10-7 advantage at the half.

Absent prospect junior wide out Tykee Ogle-Kellogg, held as a precaution after ankle injury suffered in last week’s win over Scott County, Alcoa put the ball in the air 12 times on its 61 plays. Backup quarterback Walker Russell’s scoring toss to Kalib Cardwell in the fourth quarter accounted for 45 of the Tornadoes’ 64 yards passing.

Heritage (2-4) opened the game with a methodical, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead. Alcoa coach Gary Rankin gave the Mountaineers credit for an impressive first half.

“They were the best football team in the first half,” Rankin said. “They were the hungriest football team in the first half and they were the most prepared team in the first half.”

Tornado quarterback Jaylen Myers encounters Mountaineer defenders Cameron Allison and Zach Amburn just over the line.

Tornado quarterback Jaylen Myers encounters Mountaineer defenders Cameron Allison (7) and Zach Amburn just over the line.

Heritage head coach Tim Hammontree felt it was the best opening half for the Mountaineers this season.

“We actually performed better this week than we have since the season started,” he said. “We were able to dismiss plays and move on to the next one in the first half.”

Alcoa came out a different team in the second half. Myers said the coaching staff helped change their attitude in the locker room.

“During halftime the coaches really got at us,” Myers said. “That really turned us and pumped us up and we executed well.”

Special teams gave Alcoa a great spark throughout the night. Smith had eight touchbacks on his eight kickoffs. Both of the Tornado senior’s two field goals would’ve been good from 50.

Zach Amburn jets clear for a Mountaineer touchdown.

Amburn jets clear for a Mountaineer touchdown.

With a touchback on every kickoff, the Mountaineers had to go 80 yards on all of their drives. The Tornadoes had a short field a couple times on the night, and both were costly for Heritage.

Two turnovers changed the game’s momentum noticeably in the second half, Alcoa starting drives at drives at the Mountaineers- 30- and 18-yard lines, respectively. Alcoa needed only three plays to turn the field position into 14 points.

Fatigue was a factor for the Mountaineers in the second half. With skill players going both ways and Alcoa’s run game so effective, stopping the Tornadoes was a tall task.

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