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Transfer among several Tornadoes who enjoy big night

By Tate Russell
Assistant Editor
Blount Press Row

Jacquez Tyson pulls away from a Highlander defender on Friday. Photos by Jenifer Clark

Huntsville – Weapons were not something Gary Rankin’s offense was lacking, but the Alcoa coach found a new one on Friday.

Maryville transfer John Riley McLaughlin pulled in three Peyton Wall passes for 77 yards and a score en route to a 49-0 victory for the Tornadoes at Scott County.

McLaughlin, a junior, transferred from Maryville after the season began and saw extensive action after Kenny Dean left the game early with a shoulder injury.

Without the advantage of spring practice, summer workouts or fall camp, McLaughlin took a crash course in the Tornadoes offense.

“I’ve been working real hard to get everything down, working with coach Rankin and focusing in practice,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve been able to catch on pretty quickly and get involved in the offense.”

McLaughlin pulled in his first reception on the opening play of the second half, leaping over a Highlander defender to grab an underthrown ball, which he wrestled away from his opponent. The catch set up a 12-yard burst from fullback Caleb Burchfield two plays later to put the Tornadoes up 35-0 45 seconds into the second half.

On the next Tornado series, the newcomer caught a 10-yard pass and, after a 9-yard Wall rush, McLaughlin lost Scott County’s corner on a stop-and-go for a 33-yard touchdown reception.

“On that touchdown, I gave the defender a little double move to get by and then just went up and caught it,” McLaughlin said. “It was great to get that.”

Wall completed seven of 11 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers could have been much higher, but three long passes fell through the hands of Alcoa receivers. A 60-yard touchdown to Malik Love was called back on a hold.

“Peyton threw the ball well,” Rankin said. “He was on target with about every ball. We just dropped some balls we shouldn’t have.”

Ezekiel Koko leaves the Scott County defense in his wake.

Seven different Tornadoes scored on the evening. Ezekiel Koko took the Tornadoes’ second play from scrimmage 75 yards along the right sideline without being touched to open the scoring in the game’s fourth minute.

“It was big for Koko,” Rankin said. “He hadn’t really broken anything lately and he wanted to break a big run. I think he’s finally getting his feet back under him from his injury and running like he always could.”

Safety Landon Turbyfill picked off a Highlander pass on third-and-17 on the ensuing possession and returned it to the 6-yard line. Jacquez Tyson powered it in from 2 yards away for the Alcoa’s second score.

Jarod Crenshaw rumbled 36 yards, brushing away multiple Highlanders, to move Alcoa into the red zone. Crenshaw capped the drive with a 13-yard run.

The Tornado senior finished with 58 yards on four carries. Koko lead all rushers with 102 yards on four carries, Tyson adding 30 yards on six touches. Alcoa rushed for 277 yards as a team.

Alcoa got the ball back with just over two minutes left in the half and marched 61 yards to go up 28-0 with seconds remaining.

Malik Love collects another big gain for the Tornadoes.

The drive began when Wall hit Mustafa Anthony on a screen for 21 yards. The combo connected again for 24 yards to move the offense into scoring position. On first-and-10 at the 18, Anthony drew the attention of the secondary while Jordan Ferguson, split wide, ran a slant. Wall saw the big receiver crossing the middle undefended and connected with Ferguson for the touchdown.

The Alcoa reserves saw significant action in the fourth quarter, led by freshman quarterback Mitchell McClurg. McClurg completed two passes for 23 yards and had three carries for 16 yards.

Sophomore Israel Pate completed the scoring on a 35-yard rush around the left end with 2:05 left in the game.

“We always want to get young guys in there and we have a freshman that can throw it around pretty good and some good freshmen and sophomores that we want to play,” Rankin said. “They went in and played well. I wish we could get them all in there every time.”



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