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Top-ranked Tornadoes rout Sweetwater to reach CAK rematch

Tornado tailback Ezekiel Koko sidesteps a Sweetwater tackler on Friday at Goddard Field. Photos by Jenifer Clark

By Tate Russell
Assistant Editor
Blount Press Row

Jaquez Tyson came out of the gate ready to prove that last week’s narrow victory over McMinn Central was an anomaly and eager for a second meeting with the Warriors of the Christian Academy of Knoxville.

Jarod Crenshaw hangs on and drives for more yards.

The only thing standing in the way was Sweetwater, who top-ranked Alcoa made quick work of on its way to 49-14 victory in the second round of the TSSAA Class 3A playoffs on Friday at Goddard Field.

“I thought it was a pretty clean game,” Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said. “It was good. I thought (Tyson) ran hard and our offensive line did what they always do; they opened up wholes that anybody could run through.”

The win means there’s only more work to be done, Tyson said.

“Next week, we’ve got to go out and play,” he said. “That’s pretty much state right there for us. That’s probably our only competition in the state, CAK. That game is more important than Maryville. That game means a lot to everybody. Our expectations for ourselves and for each other are outrageous and we’ll go out and do work.”

Tyson rushed for 151 yards, averaging 25 yards a touch and scoring three times to lead a Tornado ground attack that tallied 275 total yards.

“I just want to say thank you to my O-line because they played tremendous,” the sophomore tailback said. “I can honestly say that I could get about 20 yards every time I touched the ball without ever being touched.”

The Tornado defense bottled up the Wildcats for the duration.

Ezekiel Koko started the scoring for the Tornadoes when he went off right guard from the 17-yard line and darted toward the goal line. He was squared up by a Wildcat defender,  but a quick slap to the helmet was enough for Koko to slip by and score four minutes into the contest.

Koko, playing with a sprained thumb the last few weeks, finished with 45 yards on six carries with one score and may be healthy as ever going into next week’s match up.

“Ezekiel gets his cast off this week and that will help him,” Rankin said. “Carrying the ball in the unnatural hand is not good for a running back and he’s been having to do that.  Getting that off should help him a whole lot.”

Alcoa went to the air for their second score. Peyton Wall completed three passes on the four play drive, capping the series on a 55-yard hurl. Wall play faked to Koko, drew the defense forward and found Malik Love behind the secondary on a deep post for the touchdown.

Wall finished with 103 yards passing and one touchdown through the air. Two plays into the second quarter, the Tornado junior used his feet and followed guard and Mr. Football finalist Thomas Loy into the end zone from 6 yards away.

Sweetwater would answer with a 16 play drive that chewed over seven minutes of clock and was capped with a 2-yard run by Nick Wicker.

Mustafa Anthony fielded a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff at the 22-yard line and return it 53 yards to give the Tornadoes offense excellent starting field position. Koko took a sweep left for 16 yards to set up a Tyson score from 4 yards and a 28-7 halftime lead.

Mustafa Anthony busts a move to the outside.

Tyson started the second half hot, taking a Wall handoff and reaching the second level with ease. A powerful stiff arm on Wicker then shed tackle by Elijah Blomstrom took Tyson 58 yards before he was run out of bounds at the 9-yard line. Two plays later Tyson pounded it in from the 3.

The Tornadoes were faced with a third-and-6 on their next series when they lined up in their goal line set. Tyson went left in the three-back formation and never looked back racing down the home sideline for a 64-yard score.

“When we’re in goal line, the way I see it is I’m going to break it no matter where I am,” Tyson said. “In goal line I’ve either got Thomas (Loy) and Jarrod (Crenshaw) or Thomas and Alex Soule in front of me and I know there is going to be gaping hole somewhere with them and my O-line in front of me.”

Sweetwater quarterback Andrew Barr hit Wicker on a middle screen that went for 44 yards before Hunter Humphreys scored on a sweep late against the Alcoa reserves.

Branden Strissel (21) gets airborne trying to wedge his way through the Wildcat line.

Some of the younger Tornadoes got into the action late and made the most of their chances. Freshman quarterback Mitchell McClurg picked up 18 yards with his legs then another 35 through the air on the next play when he found his brother, Matthew, on a drag route. Israel Pate finished the drive with a 14-yard rushing touchdown.

Next week the Tornadoes will face Christian Academy for the second time in four weeks. The Warriors defeated Kingston, 23-7, on Friday. Christian Academy’s only defeat to date came at the hands of the Tornadoes, 31-28.

The Tornadoes fell in the third round to the Warriors last season, ending an Alcoa streak of seven consecutive state championships.


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