What’s the rush?

Sykes will wait until season’s end to pick a college

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Tennessee’s got a real shot this time.

But then so too does Florida State and LSU.

Alcoa senior Rae Sykes listed the above schools as his top three on Tuesday, three days before the two-time defending champion Tornadoes host Christian Academy of Knoxville in a second round playoff game.

All playoff kickoffs Friday are 7 p.m.

"I went to UT game (with LSU) the other day, and both teams looked really good at defensive end," Sykes said. "Those are two of my top three, with Florida State the other."

The Volunteers lost former Tornado tight end Brandon Warren to Florida State a year ago when the Class 2A Mr. Football honored an earlier commitment to Seminoles and left for Tallahassee to fulfill a childhood dream.

Sykes, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, is a super athletic defender cut from the same mold. The Seminoles have no more of a tug on his football heartstrings than do the Volunteers or Tigers, he said.

The pressure for Warren to choose Tennessee intensified as national signing day neared this spring. When he chose the Seminoles, the backlash on area talk radio was harsh.

Sykes is beginning to hear many of the same rumblings.

"They (people within the Alcoa football family) tease me a little bit," he said. "They say, ‘You’re not going to run off like Brandon did, are you?’

"I’m not worried about that right now. I’m worried about getting that third ring."

Sykes, averaging 7.5 tackles per game despite double teaming and succession of Alcoa blowouts limiting starters to less than a half of play, said he’s in no hurry to take his five official visits. He’ll visit LSU and Florida State once the Tornadoes conclude their season, with an official visit to Knoxville yet to be determined. Two other schools, he said, still have his ear.
"I’m still going to take my visits to other schools that are showing interest," Sykes said.

Calls from schools seeking a verbal commitment from Sykes have poured in this season, Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said. The more they learn about the affable Sykes, he said, the more they want him.

"He’s a very coachable kid," Rankin said. "I still think he’s getting better every day. He’s going to get bigger. He’s going to get faster, and he still wants to learn."

For now, the only thing consuming his thoughts is CAK, Sykes said. The Tornadoes (9-2) blanked the Warriors, 42-0, earlier this season. The Tornadoes have improved vastly since then, but then so has CAK.

Warriors quarterback Chris Cates has thrown for over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns since taking the reins of the CAK offense shortly after the Alcoa loss. The Warriors have five receivers with better than 200 yards receiving.

Cates played sparingly in the previous meetings, completing three of his eight passes for 9 yards. His presence under center Friday is an unknown Rankin is not taking lightly.

"I think we’ll see a different team," Rankin said. "They throw to a lot of receivers and they spread you out a lot."
With Sykes out front of Alcoa’s pass rush, it could get interesting.

Rhea County at Maryville
They’re wide awake now.

Brainerd gave the top-ranked Rebels (11-0) are real scare in a 30-26 Maryville win in last week’s Class 4A opener. Five Maryville turnovers — three fumbles and a pair of interceptions — had the Panthers close enough to smell the upset late before an Adrian Baker first down run enabled the Rebels to take an knee and exhaust the final minute.

Brainerd’s two touchdown passes were the first time the Rebel secondary has yielded a pair passing scores in a game this season. They were only the fourth and fifth scoring tosses surrendered all season — with Alcoa, Central and West notching one each.

The Golden Eagles know a thing or two about turnovers as well. Knox Central gifted Rhea County four possessions — three interceptions and a fumble — last week. The Bobcats weren’t fortunate enough to escape, falling to the Eagles 20-18 on a missed extra point and a pair of failed two-point conversions.

Look for the Rebels to regroup. Big.

William Blount at Farragut
The Governors begin retracing the steps of some painful losses this season when they visit the Admirals on Friday.

William Blount looked to have a Region 2-5A victory in hand earlier this season until a pass interference penalty on the final play of regulation gave Farragut a chance at tying field goal with no time on the clock. The Admirals converted, claiming victory later in overtime, 17-16, on a Governor missed extra point.

Farragut has one of the state’s most explosive backs in speedster Andre Sterling. With better than 1,600 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns this season, the Admiral junior is a big part of what makes Farragut go.

The Governors are riding high after last week’s 13-10 shocker at top-ranked Dobyns-Bennett. Joe Coelho’s winning 32-yard field goal has William Blount poised at the third round’s door, a place no Governor team has ever been. An offense paced by running back Darran Walker and quarterback Tyler Burstrom and a defense where linebackers Will Irwin, Dominique Brown and Cole Hail are big hitters each affords William Blount the firepower to get there. A likely rematch with unbeaten and
region champion Ooltewah looms should the Governors advance.

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