Better, stronger, faster

Area teams turn to openers after jamboree

Alcoa High School senior Taharin Tyson races to the end zone for one of three Tornado touchdowns at the Maryville Orthopaedic Clinic Football Jamboree last Friday at William Blount.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Alcoa High School senior Taharin Tyson races to the end zone for one of three Tornado touchdowns at the Maryville Orthopaedic Clinic Football Jamboree last Friday at William Blount.

“The Six Million Dollar Man” went to high school there.

Harvey Lee Yeary, a.k.a. actor Lee Majors, was a pretty good football player for the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets back in the 1950s. The future Col. Steve Austin was talented enough on the gridiron to earn a scholarship to Indiana after high school. Asked to leave after his involvement in a fraternity brawl there, Majors would finish his career at Eastern Kentucky.

A back injury suffered while at Eastern led him to turn down a tryout offer from the St. Louis Cardinals after college.

Six-time defending state champion Alcoa knows little else about its opponent for Friday’s opener. They know the Yellow Jackets were 4-8 a year ago. They know Middlesboro has a new head coach for the first time in 17 years. They know Friday’s game will take place at Lee Majors Field on the Middlesboro campus.

Much of the rest, Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said, the Tornadoes will find out when they get there.

“We think we’ll be fine if we get up there and do what we’re supposed to do,” he said.

The Tornadoes looked a team ready for many unknowns this season after a successful debut at the Maryville Orthopaedic Clinic Football Jamboree last Friday at William Blount. In a dress rehearsal for this weekend’s trip to Kentucky, Alcoa blanked Heritage, 21-0, in the jamboree’s opening quarter.

“We were pleased with the jamboree,” Rankin said. “Our kids played hard, and we made some plays. We did what we were supposed to do.”

The Mountaineers host Karns on opening night for high school football on Friday. The Governors, who host Sevier County on Friday at Mike White Field, turned away Greenback, 14-0, in a quarter of play. Maryville, which opens against the rival Tornadoes next Friday, stopped William Blount, 14-0, in the jamboree finale.

Alcoa senior Darrell Warren scored on a pair of 1-yard runs against the Mountaineers, with backfield mate and fellow senior Taharin Tyson freight-training his way 32-yards to the end zone for a third. A pair of deep bombs from quarterback Austin Tallant to senior Steven Isom and junior Lajaun Warfield, respectively, set up two the two Warren scores.

That, along with watching the super-quick Warren work some at linebacker, was much of the story in last Friday’s brief look at both teams. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Warren earned All-State accolades as a pass-rushing end a year ago.

The move works well for the position Warren projects to play in college, but that’s not why they’re doing it, Rankin said.

“When you stick him in the middle, there’s no running away from him,” he said.

The jamboree wasn’t an accurate indicator of what the Mountaineers have to offer this season. Heritage was without starting quarterback Tyler Hartley, held out after injuring a knee two weeks ago. The Mountaineer senior is expected back for the opener with the Beavers.

Three starters on the offensive line — senior Andrew Headrick and juniors Stephen Bailes and Nick Cutler — also missed the jamboree. With each of them expected back, it’s a Heritage team closer to full strength that awaits the Beavers.

“The best thing is we came out (of the jamboree) clean, and we’re going into Karns at pretty much full strength,” Mountaineer coach Brint Russell said.

While the Mountaineers struggled to move the ball against the Tornadoes, sophomore quarterback Jake Olvey stood in and delivered the ball with some eye-catching zip. Two of Olvey’s passes were simply drops.

“It’s hard to take a sophomore and put him in there against one of the best teams in the state,” Russell said.

Heritage looks to have a real keeper in the young gunslinger, though.

Injury interrupted fall camp for the Governors as well with quarterback Zach Witt having his appendix removed at the midway point. Witt, like Hartley, is expected back for the opener. It’s a potentially big-play team that awaits his return.

Dalton Wheeler sliced his way 49 yards through the Cherokee defense for one score, with sophomore Lane Bloom finishing a drive from 4 yards for another, as William Blount opened strong against Greenback. It was a welcome lift, Governor coach David Gregory said.

“I felt pleased with our improvement from the week before,” he said. “We saw some good things. We saw some bad things, but, overall, we saw more good than bad. That was definitely a confidence booster for our line, and they needed it.”

Maryville’s Rebels powered downfield for the first score of the final quarter, junior Jacob West capping a 70-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge. Rebel quarterback Austin Canfield flicked a spiral to senior Preston Burnett at the left sideline later in the quarter, and the Maryville burner did the rest, rocketing 71 yards for a 14-0 advantage.

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