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Nixing The Wing-T

Tornado coordinator makes stopping Bledsoe winning priority

Alcoa junior Jaquez Tyson is snared by Heritage defensive back Kahlil Abuhania during Friday night’s game at James D. Lillard Field. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Heritage is far and away a better team than a year ago.

Mountaineer junior Orlando Bledsoe found little room to run.

Fullback Orlando Bledsoe not only has a shot at the school’s single-season rushing record. He could put it on the shelf for a while by the time he’s done.

“They’ve been playing some good football lately,” Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said. “(Mountaineer) coach (Tim) Hammontree is doing a good job. They’ll start winning some games pretty soon.”

Thursday wasn’t that night, though, as the Tornadoes rolled to 42-7 win at Heritage’s Jack Renfro Stadium.

Bledsoe entered the contest with 658 yards and six touchdowns on 70 carries through four games. The Tornadoes (4-1) limited the powerful, speedy back to minus 5 yards on four carries through a half of play.

“They were really keying on me,” Bledsoe said. “The game plan was to get me going, to get me some touches. We didn’t get the looks we wanted up front.”

Preventing such a thing was a point of emphasis in practice this week, Alcoa defensive coordinator Brian Nix said.

“With the wing-t, you’ve got to control the fullback,” he said. “If you don’t control the fullback, then all the other things start to develop.”

Malik Love sets sail for one of his two touchdowns, with teammate Nick Miller providing the escort.

Alcoa went on to score on each of its first four possessions and build a 28-0 halftime lead as the Mountaineers (1-4) struggled to get Bledsoe and the wing-t offense untracked.

The Tornado offense, on the other hand, was roaring at F-5 right from the start, senior Malik Love opening the scoring on the third play from scrimmage. The playmaking flanker dashed 46 yards down the far sideline for a 7-0 Alcoa lead with the contest not two minutes old.

Heritage quarterbacks R.T. Byrd and backup Kahlil Abuhania, with relief from quick senior wingback Brandon Cutler, eventually got the edges of the Tornado defense for brief escapes. Abuhania’s change of pace under center sparked one of Heritage’s longest possessions of the half.

“We have a couple of things he can do that might help,” Hammontree said, “(if only) just the physical aspect of his speed in the backfield.”

An Alcoa defense paced by All-State tackle Braylon Young, sophomore end Jonathan Decker and linebackers Jake Warrwick, Keller Maples and Dustin Clabough quickly regrouped. The Mountaineers were limited to two first downs and 26 yards of offense in the opening half.

Tornado quarterback Peyton Wall breaks off a big gain.

The Tornadoes needed one play on their second possession to open the lead to 14-0. Quarterback Peyton Wall tossed quickly over the right side to receiver Nick Miller on first down. After the catch, Miller wheeled and threw back Wall, who bobbed and weaved down the sideline for the 55-yard score.

Turning the offense over to backup quarterback Mitchell McClug for a series, Alcoa strung together a more conventional, 12-play drive to take a 21-0 lead with five seconds to play in the opening quarter. Junior Jaquez Tyson sprinted in standing up from 5 yards for the points.

The All-State back made it 28-0 Tornadoes on a 10-yard burst off right guard with eight minutes to play in the half.

Abuhania is dragged to the turf by a host of Tornadoes.

A Brenden Teeter interception returned 32 yards for a touchdown brought the running clock into effect at 35-0 Tornadoes on the opening possession of the third. With 11 minutes to play in the fourth, Love cut loose on a 14-yard scamper to put the margin at 42-0.

The deficit withstanding, the Mountaineers erased the shutout in impressive fashion in the closing minutes.

Facing fourth-and-1 at his own 19-yard line, Byrd first got the Tornadoes to jump offside with a long snap count. Six plays later, Bledsoe raced through a gap behind right guard and powered 50 yards to the end zone.

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