No pressure

Photo with no caption
By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

The comparisons began the day Darrell Warren and Taharin Tyson first slipped into a pair of football trousers.
Was Taharin as good as Dustin?

Would Darrell be the athlete Brandon had been?

Tim Russell decided to meet the questions head on when Tyson and Warren reached Alcoa Middle School a year ago. Warren would wear the same No. 1 jersey his cousin and Florida State freshman Brandon Warren had worn last season with the high school team. Tyson would be in the same No. 2 shirt his cousin and Coffeyville (Kan.) junior college freshman Dustin Lindsey had made famous as a Tornado.

"We talked all year about leaving a legacy like those kids did," Russell, the middle school coach, said. "I told them, ‘They (Lindsey and Brandon Warren) have left us a legacy. Now, continue that on to high school. That tradition, carry it over to
high school.’"

Alcoa’s latest 1-2 punch showed well in leading the Tornadoes to a 28-14 win over Heritage in the Blount County Middle School Championship Game on Tuesday at Maryville College.

Warren tore down the right sideline with eight minutes remaining in the opening quarter to give Alcoa an early 8-0 lead.

When the Mustangs answered with a Tyler Hartley 88-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Cutshaw one possession later, Tyson hauled in a short toss from quarterback Zach Witt and rumbled 15 yards to reestablish the advantage, slipping a pair of tackles as he went.

Blanked by the Tornadoes, 36-0, only a week ago, the Mustangs gathered themselves in the second half to produce a thriller. The outcome remained in doubt until Tyson raced around right end for a clinching first down with 35 seconds remaining, Alcoa in third-and-3 at the Heritage 12-yard line. Warren carried 8 yards over right guard one play later for the final margin.

Afterward, Tyson, in keeping with the modesty Lindsey displayed in rushing for a Blount County-record 42 touchdowns two seasons ago, had high praise for the Mustangs.

"They had a lot of heart," he said. "They didn’t step down."

Warren and he plan to be no different when they step into the shoes left behind by their famous cousins next season, Tyson said.

"You’ve got to ignore the pressure and go out there and do your best," he said.

Heritage was a decidedly different team from the one they faced last week, Russell said. A key first down broke open that contest, enabling Alcoa to maintain possession and eventually race away. Tuesday, the Mustangs came to play until the final horn.

"They’re an excellent football team," Russell said. "They’re well-coached and their kids played with more heart tonight."

The Mustangs shut down the Tornadoes in three plays on the game’s first series. When Alcoa took an 8-0 lead a possession later, Heritage rallied with a 72-yard drive in three plays, Cutshaw running under a Hartley toss and eluding a defender to go the distance.

"Our kids came out and our kids played hard," Young said. "We were undersized. They (the Tornadoes) had three guys in the backfield (Tyson, Warren and fellow bruiser Jonavan Henry) that are bigger than anybody on our defense.
"Our kids played with heart. I’m proud of them."

The Mustang staff displayed a willingness adapt on the Cutshaw score. Hartley, Heritage’s top ball carrier this season, lined up under center on the play. Mustang quarterback Patton Robinette drew much of Alcoa’s attention, lining up at flanker.

"It was a formation we’d run before and I was hoping to catch them off balance, maybe make a mistake," Young said.

Hartley laid the ball up high for the taller Cutshaw, who shook a Tornado defender at the left sideline before setting sail.

"I was hoping he was open," Hartley said. "I just threw it up."

The Tornadoes threatened a repeat of a week ago when Tyson capped a 65-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring catch from Witt one possession later. That the Mustangs were a different team for the rematch was quickly made evident when Eli Eakens stopped Steven Isom short on the following 2-point conversion try.

The stop helped send Heritage into halftime a confident team, down 14-8. On the opening possession of the third quarter, the Mustangs were right back in it, Harley finishing a 65-yard march with a 4-yard run around left end.

Alcoa looked ready once again to answer, with first Tyson, then Warren, charging into the Heritage line for back-to-back first down to begin the next drive. With the Tornadoes in first-and-10 at the Mustang 42, Hartley and Evan Brown led a Heritage defense that rose to the occasion, stuffing Alcoa at the Mustang 34 three plays later. Robinette saddled up the Mustang offense and drove Heritage to the Tornado 3-yard line on the ensuing possession, only to see the drive stall on second-and-goal on a fumbled exchange from center. Alcoa’s John Tucker Rankin recovered.

The Tornadoes would strike fast in capitalizing.

Russell said his first inclination was unleash the Warren/Tyson combination again. Assistant coach Scott Flynn had a better

"I said, ‘Let’s pound it, pound it, pound it,’" he said. "We had a size advantage (at receiver) on that side, and coach Flynn said, ‘You can get that fade (route) any time you want it."

Facing first-and-10 at his own 12, Witt rose from center and put one up for receiver Jared Jett, streaking down the far sideline.

"I said, ‘Oh, God! Catch it, Jett. Catch it,’" Witt said. "He likes to think he’ fast, but he’s not."

A quick turn to the boundary after making the catch, and Jett was off to the races.

"Pretty much when I caught it, there wasn’t anybody behind me," he said.

Brandon Bales denied Tyson the 2-point conversion run, with three remaining for the Mustangs to again equalize. Isom’s interception three plays into the ensuing series returned the ball to the Tornadoes, with Alcoa exhausting all but one of Heritage’s remaining timeouts on five plays.

After the Tyson first-down run, Young conceded, declining to stop the clock one last time with only a handful of seconds remaining. Warren punched in for one last score a play later.

Lindsey teamed with the other Warren to lead the high school’s Tornadoes to back-to-back state championship in their four seasons. Warren would be named last season’s Class 2A Mr. Football. Lindsey would sign with Tennessee following last season, enrolling at Coffeyville after failing to qualify.

Only time will tell how Tyson and the younger Warren compare to their cousins on the high school level, but one signpost along the way has already been reached.

The Tornadoes completed an unbeaten, 7-0 season with Tuesday’s title game. The last Alcoa Middle team to finish the year without a blemish?

The Lindsey/Warren led Tornadoes four years ago.

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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