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Getting Picky

Interceptions fuel Alcoa Middle rout of Sevierville
Alcoa’s Middle Kareem Rodriguez carries a host of Bears to the end zone Thursday night. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

The Walker Russell “selfie” was one for the books.

Tornado quarterback Walker Russell rolls to throw.

Walker Russell rolls to throw.

The acrobatic, one-man tip drill produced one of three Alcoa Middle first-half interceptions Thursday night, the Tornadoes putting points behind two of them en route to a 35-0 shutout of Sevierville Middle at Alcoa High’s Goddard Field.

The win bodes well for the season’s stretch run, Alcoa coach Mike McClurg said.

“We were very concerned,” he said. “We knew they had a very good football team and they’re well-coached. We’ve just got some really good kids that wanted to listen.”

Kareem Rodriguez and Jalen McCord also had first half picks as Alcoa rolled to a 21-0 lead at the half. Mikael Ayl uncorked a gear they don’t put in a Ferrari in returning the second half kickoff 75 yards for another score.

With Rodriguez, two, K’Vaughn Tyson and Landon Ray accounting for the other touchdowns, place-kicker Zeke Rankin adding to his school record with every extra point, the Tornadoes dropped Sevierville from the ranks of the unbeaten in convincing fashion.

Things could hardly have begun worse for the Bears, the game’s first two snaps both sailing high over the quarterback’s head. Sevierville punted on fourth-and-26 two plays later, and Alcoa got started.

Rodriguez sliced untouched through the right side for 14 yards and a 6-0 lead with five minutes to play in the first quarter. On the ensuing Bear’s possession, Rodriguez snared the first of the Tornadoes three picks.

“It was mostly practice,” he said, “studying their plays. When I saw (the quarterback) rolling out, I knew there was nowhere else he could throw.”

K'Vaughn Tyson gets to the corner.

K’Vaughn Tyson gets to the corner.

Seven plays later, Tyson barged into the Sevierville end zone from the 5 and, with Rodriguez’ conversion run, it was 14-0 Alcoa with still a minute before the quarter change.

The Walker selfie came with just over three minutes to play in the half, the one-handed tip and grab giving the Tornadoes the ball at the Bear 15-yard line.

“I thought it was overthrown,” Walker said, “so I just tried to tip it back to me.”

Rodriguez didn’t waste any time with the points, barreling up the middle for the score on the next play, carrying four Bears with him the last 5 yards for a 21-0 advantage.

(Editor: Please see Jolanda Jansma photo blog of play in “Photos” section.)

Rankin tacked on his 19th extra point of the season following the Rodriguez score. He added Nos. 20 and 21 in the second half, each a new Alcoa Middle record.

Zeke Rankin adds to his school record out of Russell's hold.

Zeke Rankin adds to his school record out of Russell’s hold.

Rankin, son of Alcoa High coach Gary Rankin and a soccer player by trade, is the first place-kicker the middle school has ever known – ever.

“One day I was out here (prior to a high school game) just playing around,” said Zeke, 21-of-22 on PATs on the season. “They set up a tee for me at the 15, and I hit it straight down the middle.”

Any hopes Sevierville held of a second half rally were quickly dashed when play resumed with the Ayl kickoff return. Ayl credited Ray with the block that sprung him.

“I saw the open field, and I just ran,” Ayl said.

Walker worked the play-action with the Tornadoes in first-and-goal at the Sevierville 6 with two minutes to play in the third. Ray cradled the soft toss in the end zone to close the scoring.

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