Crowning achievement?

Alcoa, Sweetwater to battle for region title

By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Sweetwater is all that stands between Alcoa and a Region 2-2A title.

To keep the Tornadoes from claiming the league crown, the Wildcats will have to slow a team coming in red hot.

Alcoa has averaged 45.8 points per game its last four contests. Then-third-ranked Loudon was touched for 63 points in a 63-14 drubbing three weeks ago. Hapless Wartburg was blanked, 55-0, two weeks ago.

The Alcoa/Sweetwater clash at Goddard Field highlights a trio of important contests Friday. William Blount, fresh off last week’s upset of Oak Ridge, hosts McMinn County in an important Region 2-5A tilt. Heritage welcomes Bradley Central to town, looking to put the brakes on a five-game skid.

Maryville’s two-time defending Class 4A champion Rebels have the week off. All kickoffs Friday are 7:30 p.m.

Alcoa’s explosive offense of late is a welcome change from the season’s early going. The two-time defending 2A champion Tornadoes (5-2, 4-0) entertained one of the state’s toughest schedules their first five games, run that included the 4A top-ranked Rebels, 3A top-ranked Fulton and then-Division II top-ranked McCallie.

Alcoa came up short in two of those contests — 17-14 to the Rebels, 24-21 to the Falcons — before righting the ship in a 24-21 thriller over the Blue Tornado.

"It was tough," Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said, "not only because of the opponents we played but me coming in and the kids adjusting to a new deal."

The Tornadoes have emerged from that opening gauntlet with junior Randall Cobb a more polished field general at quarterback. Fellow senior Chris Shiverdecker has become a legitimate game breaker at running back. On the outside, receivers Kyrus Lanxter and Brian Sommer afford Cobb a pair of formidable targets.

Cobb’s development in this his first season as a starter has been critical, Rankin said.

"It’s a position that can get you beat quicker than any place else," he said. "He’s got a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I think he’s getting more comfortable and his confidence is growing."

Equally big, Rankin said, has been the emergence of linebackers Darrell Tate and Troy Hodge to compliment defensive stars Rae Sykes and Bart Hicks. Sophomore receiver/defensive back Sam Thompson has been a find no one anticipated.

"For a sophomore to come in and do what he’s done just doesn’t happen very often, "Rankin said.

The Wildcats (6-1, 3-1) are a dangerous team, one the Tornadoes aren’t taking lightly.

"They’ve got some athletes," Rankin said. "They’ve got some people that can make plays.

"We just want to continue to practice hard and not overlook anybody, not get ahead of ourselves. We practice every week like it’s championship week and work hard to get better."

McMinn County at William Blount
The Governors are a hot ticket. Last week’s fourth quarter rally not only landed William Blount it’s first win over Oak Ridge, it edged the Governors closer to The Associated Press’ top 10 at the No. 12 spot.

Two William Blount losses came in heart-breaking fashion — a last-minute drive at Ooltewah and an overtime loss at Farragut.

Linebacker Cole Lail delivered a landmark 20 tackles and caused and recovered a fumble in the 21-13 win over Oak Ridge. Fellow linebacker Will Irwin had 17 stops.

Led by senior running back Darran Walker, junior quarterback Tyler Burstrom and junior receiver Grey Clevenger, the Governors are generating more than enough offense. A win Friday puts a playoff berth one tantalizing win away.

Bradley Central at Heritage
After a pair of opening wins, the Mountaineers weathered a storm that saw them come up against Farragut, Maryville, Oak Ridge and Ooltewah in four of the last five weeks. The clouds part somewhat this week. With McMinn County and William Blount remaining, Friday will be an invaluable time to gather some momentum.

Despite a 41-0 blanking at the hands of second-ranked Ooltewah last week, the Mountaineers have the firepower to produce a victory. Quarterback Dylan Morgan has never lost his footing despite some tough outings this season. Senior running back/linebacker Clark Kerns has proven the season’s revelation. Fellow senior Shawn Wichert is a big-play threat at both receiver and defensive back.

Freshman and coming star Michael Cermak at one of the linebacker has entered the fray a year early and acquitted himself
well. Speedster Bryan Wigington is expected back from injury this week, boding well for a big night.

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