National exposure

Tornadoes earn spot on MaxPreps tour

Members of Alcoa High School’s state championship football team display a banner awarded the Tornadoes during the MaxPreps Tour of Champions visit on Tuesday.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Members of Alcoa High School’s state championship football team display a banner awarded the Tornadoes during the MaxPreps Tour of Champions visit on Tuesday.

Murfreesboro sportswriter and MaxPreps representative Murphy Fair addresses the crowd at the Alcoa gym on Tuesday.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Murfreesboro sportswriter and MaxPreps representative Murphy Fair addresses the crowd at the Alcoa gym on Tuesday.

Alcoa coach Gary Rankin accepts the trophy commemorating the Tornadoes top 50, MaxPreps national ranking.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Alcoa coach Gary Rankin accepts the trophy commemorating the Tornadoes top 50, MaxPreps national ranking.

Some 16,000 high schools nationally fielded football teams last season.

Of that number, only two from Tennessee would crack the MaxPreps top 50, Alcoa’s six-time defending state champion Tornadoes finishing the season in the No. 49 spot.

That achievement earned Alcoa a stop of the fifth annual MaxPreps Tour of Champions during the school’s basketball game with Seymour on Monday. Sponsored by the National Guard, the Tour of Champions was established by California-based MaxPreps to recognize the nation’s high school football elite.

Murfreesboro sportswriter and Tennessee prep football guru Murphy Fair presented Alcoa head coach Gary Rankin with a trophy from MaxPreps in acknowledgment of the Tornadoes’ lofty finish on the national stage. Fair publishes one of the state’s top prep football magazines each season. Alcoa finishing among the nation’s top 50 teams is no surprise, he said.

“It makes it real easy with my magazine to make Alcoa the No. 1 pick every year,” Fair said.

Alcoa won a record sixth straight state championship and record-tying 11th overall with a 21-0 shutout of Milan at last month’s BlueCross Bowl in Cookeville.

The Tornadoes are the only Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association to win at least five in a row. The 11 titles overall equals the mark set by Blount County rival Maryville two seasons ago.

It’s no secret how it’s all come about, Rankin said.

“This is a football town,” he said. “This is a football community, and it’s been that way for 30 or 40 years.”

Rankin has guided the Tornadoes to the last four championships, Alcoa compiling a 56-4 record over that span, including an ongoing 28-game winning streak.

Senior running back JaRon Toney broke a trio of state records during the Tornadoes march to the title in 2009, establishing new single-season marks for rushing touchdowns (50), total touchdowns (52) and points scored (318) along the way. The Gatorade state player of the year and Mr. Football finalist would finish with 2,368 yards rushing.

A powerful running game included junior fullback Taharin Tyson, who totaled 843 yards on the ground all while opening holes for Toney.

A defense paced by Kentucky commitment Tyler Robinson, BlueCross Bowl defensive most valuable player Deontra Herbert and junior defensive end Darrell Warren (52 tackles, 12 sacks), shut out three opponents in 2009, limiting 12 opponents to 10 points or less.

MaxPreps uses a computer program known as the Freeman Rankings in compiling its national poll. The Freeman program takes into consideration number of wins, quality wins, margin of victory and strength of schedule in ranking its teams. Playoff contests are weighed slightly higher.

MaxPreps, purchased by CBS Corp. in 2007, is headquartered in Cameron Park, Calif.

Division II champion Memphis University School was the other Tennessee team to earn a stop on the Tour of Champions.

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