Blount Press Row

Mission: Impossible?

Player of the Year Warwick contemplates a 2017 to rival the greats

Alcoa’s Jack Warwick, the 2016 Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Year, produced numbers last season that were truly monster. This year, he hopes to better them. Photo by Cindy Nowlin

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Corey Robinson of Lone Oak High School in Paducah, Ky., threw for a national record 91 touchdowns during the 2007 season.

In 520 pass attempts that year, the prolific Mr. Robinson was intercepted four times.

OK, that’s nice.

We didn’t know it was possible to collect 174 tackles in a season until Warwick did it during Alcoa’s title run last fall.

Or how about John Giannantonio, or Jim Linnstaeder, or Tennessee’s own Shelbyville Bedford Training Academy, which holds MaxPreps’ most untouchable high school football record of all time?

The Netcong, N.J., Giannantonio rushed for 594.5 yards per game during the 1950 season. He had 754 yards in one game! Linnstaeder, of Brenham, Texas, intercepted a national record 35 passes in 1956. Most teams don’t get that many in a season.

From 1942 to 1949, the Bedford Training Academy Tigers shut out a record 52 consecutive opponents.

All of which brings us to Alcoa linebacker Jack Warwick, the 2016 Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Year.

As a junior last season, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Warwick amassed a Blount County-best 174.5 tackles. Don’t know if that’s a county record, but, if you’ve heard of better, we’d sure like to know.

If the Mr. Football semifinalist hits the mark he’s set for himself in 2017, we’re just going to go ahead and call it.

“My goal is to get 200 tackles,” Warwick said. “I figure I have to average about 13 a game.”

Neither the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association nor the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national governing body for high school athletics, keeps records for tackles in a season. It took some digging to gather some perspective for what Warwick is attempting. The best number we could find was 203 stops by Jeff Byers of Loveland, Colo., in 2004.

Can Warwick get there?

Warwick, right, and Terran Cox coverage on the Elzabethton quarterback during a Class 3A playoff game last season. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

It wouldn’t be a good idea to bet against him, said Alcoa coach Gary Rankin, who himself is set to join the immortals this season.

Already the state’s winningest coach, Rankin needs three more this fall to become the first to reach 400.

“He’s relentless,” Rankin said of Warwick. “He’s just a winner. He just wants to be good. He’s just a natural athlete who has a knack for getting to the ball.”

As he made mention, Warwick needs 13.3 tackles per game – and the Tornadoes have to go the distance, 15 games – to reach 200. When you consider he averaged 11.6 to get within striking distance a year ago, it’s doable.

Warwick, Tornado defensive coordinator Brian Nix said, is the type of player who makes the doable a reality.

“You get two things with him,” Nix said. “You get consistency, and you get unselfishness. If I asked him, ‘We need you to go play defensive tackle,’ he’d do it.

“And it’s not consistency every game; it’s consistency every day. I’ve never known Jack to have a bad practice.”

Nix’s comments are more than words. Warwick was not only Alcoa’s top tackler a year ago in securing All-State honors. The do-it-all Tornado, checking in at 5-11, 191 last fall, was the fullback in the team’s short-yardage offense. Behind him, respectively, were all-county tailback Colton Wright, 6-1, 205, and fullback Malik Salter, 5-8, 222.

Warwick is snared by an unidentified William Blount Governor during last year’s jamboree. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

“I knew he’d be a good football player,” Rankin said. “It’s hard to know someone’s going to be that good.”

For the season, Warwick had 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks to go with his numbing 174 stops. That total included an unheard of 22 tackles in a Class 3A semifinal at No. 2-ranked Sequatchie County in late November.

The Tornadoes won it a shutout, 24-0.

Warwick tacked on a pair of rushing touchdowns and another 50 yards receiving on offense. Good in coverage, he had two picks for 31 yards and a touchdown.

In last season’s 3A title game, Warwick tied defensive back Terran Cox for the team lead with nine tackles as Alcoa (14-1) routed Liberty Magnet, 45-12, for the school’s 15th state crown.

None of it happens without the guys up front, Warwick said.

“I’ve got to give credit to the defensive line for keeping those blockers off me,” he said.

The 200 tackles isn’t bravado.

“I always like to top the last season,” he said.

Barley’s/Blount Press Row
2016 All-Blount County Football Team

QB - Dylan Hopkins, Maryville

The Maryville junior and Mr. Football semifinalist completed 151 of his 223 passes for 2,249 yards and 26 touchdowns against only four picks. A genuine dual-threat, he finished the Rebels third-best rusher with an even 100 carries for 469 yards and five touchdowns.

RB - James Ambagis, Heritage


One of two Blount County rushers to crack 1,000 last season, the Heritage junior got there first, finishing with 194 carries for 1,113 yards – 5.7 yards per rush – and six touchdowns. No other Mountaineer was within 100 carries or 800 yards. Extraordinary.

RB - Colton Wright, Alcoa

The Alcoa senior romped to the county rushing title in 2016 as the Tornadoes claimed the Class 3A state championship. Wright carried 132 times for 1,308 yards over 15 games, averaging 9.9 yards per carry. His 16 rushing TDs was a team-best, with Wright adding a 17th score receiving.

OL - Joe Dennis, Heritage

Standing in at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Dennis, a senior in 2016, captained the line from his center position and produced back-to-back, 1,000-yard rushers his junior and senior years: Colton Wright (2015), James Ambagis (2016).

OL - Mason Gann, Maryville

Gann, 6-foot-2, 275 pounds, generated considerable buzz when he picked up an offer from Tennessee Tech last summer prior to his junior year. Benches 405, squats 530. Runs the 40 in 5.07 seconds. That’s awfully fast for a guy that size.

OL - Lucas McKeehan, Alcoa

At 6-foot-1, 235-pounds, McKeehan, a junior last season, ranks with the best centers we’ve seen play in Blount County. Benches 300, squats 500, deadlift 405. Doubled at tackle on defense.

OL - Cade Evans, Alcoa

The last of Evans brothers, Cade, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior last season, helped Alcoa mash its way to 3,915 rushing yards as a team. The Tornadoes roared to a record-tying 15 state championship as a consequence.

OL - Logan Turbyfill, Alcoa

Turbyfill (No. 77) had the block of the year (above) when he cleared the path for a Colton Wright touchdown run. At 6-foot-2, 270 pounds, Turbyfill, a senior in 2106, benches 270 and squats 600.

TE - Blake Watson, Maryville

The tight end can be a big time weapon if you’ve got a good one. Watson, a junior, finished behind only wide out Noah Humphreys on the Rebel receiving charts, Watson making 23 catches for 410 yards at a 17.8 yards per catch average. Watson and Humphreys tied for the lead in TD catches with four each.

WR - Isaiah Hannah, Wm Blount

Year end statistics not available.

WR - Tykee Ogle-Kellogg, Alcoa

Prompting offers from a host of schools, including hometown Tennessee, the 6-foot-5 Ogle-Kellogg had 39 catches for 808 yards – an average of 20.7 yards per reception – en route in securing Class 3A Mr. Football honors. The Tornado junior finished with 12 touchdowns receiving. He also rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

ATH - Jordan Ervin, Maryville


Ervin was an electric threat out of the backfield with 110 carries for 901 yards – 8.2 per rush – racking up 23 rushing touchdowns. He had six catches for 92 yards and another score. Top stat: 13 kickoff returns, 384 yards. Folks, that’s 30 yards per return.

K - Ben Smith, Alcoa


Smith got crazy good on field goals during his senior season with the Tornadoes, hitting on 9-of-10 with a long boot of 47 yards. Might have been good from 57. Smith was 65-of-67 on PATs, all en route to securing All-State honors.


DL - Matt Young, Maryville

IMG_0965 (1)

Young, a senior, finished fifth-best among Rebels in tackles from his defensive end position. His 68 total tackles are one thing, but his 45 solo stops rivaled the numbers of Maryville’s linebackers. His eight tackles for loss and nine sacks are superb on any level.

DL - Tristan Woody, Alcoa


The only returning starter for the Tornadoes on the defensive line in 2016, Woody, a junior, finished third on the Alcoa tackle charts with 83.5 stops. That’s just massive for an interior lineman. His nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks was among the leaders as well.

DL - Jacob Coppinger, Heritage


Play the interior on a 3-4 defense, and stand out, there’s something pretty special about you. Coppinger, a junior, delivered one of 2016’s top defensive performance when he collected six solo tackles and an exhaustive 22 assists in a late-season, must-have win over West. Two of his stops were for lost yardage. For the season, Coppinger finished eighth on the Heritage tackle charts with 48 tackles, including three sacks.

DL - Ian Dunkin, Alcoa


Dunkin, a senior, quietly put together one of the best seasons for all county defensive linemen last season. The Alcoa end had 70.5 total tackles, but what popped were a team-best 11 tackles for loss. Add 6.5 sacks, and it’s hard to think of a better way to close your high school career.

LB - T.D. Blackmon, Maryville


The Mr. Football finalist missed three games at midseason with precautionary knee surgery and STILL finished atop the Maryville tackle charts for the fourth consecutive season. With 130 stops, 82 solo, paired with a team-best 14 tackles for loss and three sacks, the Air Force Academy signee capped a brilliant career in style.

LB - Jack Warwick, Alcoa
Barley's/BPR Player of the Year

Gosh! Listen at these numbers: 174.5 total tackles; 71 solo tackles. In arguably the top individual performance all season – offense or defense – the Tornado junior and Mr. Football semifinalist had 22 stops, a sack, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in a 24-0, Class 3A semifinal shutout of No. 2-ranked Sequatchie County. For the season, Warwick finished with 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He returned a pick 31 yards for a score – playing in a cast on his left arm. The fullback in the Alcoa goal line offense, he tacked on a pair of rushing scores.

LB - Landon Harrell, Heritage


Quite a few Mountaineers play both ways, and Harrell was one of the best at it in 2016. The junior linebacker had 52 stops, 31 solo, on defense, switching sides with the change of possessions to add 5 catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns on offense. Both Harrell scores came in a critical playoff qualifier in a 17-10 win over West. Clutch.

LB - Kalib Sugdin, Wm Blount


When we think back on the season Sugdin delivered in 2016, we keep hearing the old student section standard – “He’s a sophomore!” – ringing in our ears. Sudgin finished best among Governors in total tackles (107), solo tackles (67) and tackles for loss (9). A breakout year included three sacks.

DB - Will Orren, Maryville

IMG_0986 (1)

The Rebel junior finished with a Blount County-best seven interceptions in 2016, returning the picks for 55 yards to give the offense great starting position. Eighth-best on the Maryville tackle charts, he had 59 stops with a tackle for loss.

DB - Terran Cox, Alcoa


One of the most underrated athletes to come along in quite a while, the Alcoa senior finished second-best among Tornadoes with 108 total tackles, 50 of them solo. Had three tackles for loss and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. The BlueCross Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player, Cox tied linebacker Jack Warwick for the team lead with nine tackles in the title game, Cox adding a pick.

DB - Kyle Valentine, Heritage


Valentine delivered from both sides for the Mountaineers last season. From his defensive back spot, the Heritage senior finished seventh-best in tackles with 52 stops. On offense, he had 12 catches for 147 yards, 12.3 yards per catch, with two touchdowns.

ATH - Dae Dae Love, Wm Blount


Year end statistics not available.

P - Noah Perkins, Heritage


A do-it-all standout at the middle school level, Perkins continued the theme during his freshman season with the Mountaineers. The county’s top punter, he had 34 kicks, averaging 36 yards per boot. Five of his punts downed inside the 20.

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