Blount Press Row

Jacked!

Warwick, rebuilt Alcoa defense ready for title defense

Alcoa junior Jack Warwick (23) fills many roles for the top-ranked Tornadoes, among them finishing the regular season as the top tackler on defense and holding down a spot on the kickoff team. Photo by Wallace Bowden

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Malik Salter, senior, 5-foot-8, 222 pounds.

Colton Wright, senior, 6-1, 205.

Jack Warwick, junior, 5-11, 191.

And Warwick’s the fullback?

Jack Warwick

Jack Warwick

The way Alcoa uses the Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Week on offense is as varied and effective as his impact on the Tornadoes new-look defense in 2016.

Defending champion and No. 1-ranked Alcoa (9-1) hosts Unicoi County (5-5) in a Class 3A playoff opener on Friday at Goddard Field.

Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Warwick will have a lot to do with it if the Tornadoes return to Cookeville in December to defend the 2015 title.

On offense, he’s the lead back in Alcoa’s short-yardage, full-house power-I, with Wright and Salter, respectively, following Warrick into the line.

“It’s just a toughness thing,” Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said. “Whoever that guy is he’s got to be tough on every play.”

The Tornadoes are typically only in the alignment for a play or two, but there are exceptions.

During some of the worst conditions ever for a state championship game — cold, drenching thunderstorms twice delayed the start — Alcoa stayed with the bone-crunching formation for the duration in a numbing, 25-7 win over Christ Presbyterian Academy in the 2013 BlueCross Bowl.

Tornado great Jaquez Tyson carried a championship game-record 49 times for 278 yards and three touchdowns set deep in the I, with current Chattanooga Moc Jonathan Decker filling the role Warwick does now.

“That guy (Decker/Warwick) has got to be a tough football player,” Rankin said.

Warwick is far from simply a blocking back, however.

He’s the backup tailback in the Tornadoes’ more conventional two-back set. He’s a big part of the passing attack, both throwing and receiving.

Defensively, Warwick headlines a defense with a substantial amount of rebuilding to do prior to the season.

Warwick, pictured here against William Blount in the jamboree, began the season with his left arm in a cast. In the regular season matchup with the Governors, Warwick's one-handed interception returned 30 yards for a touchdown was the play of the game.

Warwick, pictured here against William Blount in the jamboree, began the season with his left arm in a cast. In the regular season matchup with the Governors, Warwick’s one-handed interception returned 30 yards for a touchdown was the play of the game. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Three of four defensive linemen, including the Mr. Football Decker, were seniors on a defense that finished best in the state in 2015 at 6.9 points per game. Two linebackers, including top tackler Garrett Livesay, were also seniors.

Warwick finished No. 2 on last season’s tackle chart. In assuming the top spot in 2016, he’s brought along a few friends.

Alcoa shutout Christian Academy of Knoxville, 45-0, in the Region 2-3A championship game last Friday in Knoxville. Three Tornadoes — linebackers Davis Maples, Terran Cox and Warrick — turned in standout games as Alcoa blanked its second consecutive opponent.

Cox racked up five solo tackles and six assists. Maples had three solo stops and seven assists, adding a quarterback hurry and pass breakup.

We went with Warwick — four solo tackles, seven assists, one pass breakup — as our final player of the week of the regular season because he does so many other things for Alcoa.

He also had a 30-yard reception in the win over the Warriors.

“I’m sure he could place-kick for us if we asked him,” Rankin said.

Last year’s 6.9 points per game was impressive, but the 10.1 points Warwick & crew are yielding isn’t exactly chopped liver.

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