Friday Night Preview: CAK at Alcoa

What: Class 3A quarterfinal

When: Friday

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Records: Alcoa (12-0), Christian Academy of Knoxville (11-1)

Radio: Blount Today Sports Radio, WLHR 97.9 FM

The players: Blount Today Sports Radio color analyst Joe Lambert cooed the following as top-ranked Alcoa began to pull well clear of Sweetwater in a Class 3A playoff opener two weeks ago: “They (the Wildcats) really need Rudy right now.”

Christian Academy of Knoxville isn’t Sweetwater, though, and Friday’s visit from the Warriors has a berth in next week’s semifinals on the line.

Tornado tailback and Mr. Football finalist Darrell Warren stormed to a big night of 175 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 17 carries in a 50-33 Alcoa win in the District 4AA championship game in Week 10 at Goddard Field. Mr. Football finalist Vanderbilt Hambrick ran for 118 yards and two scores. Fullback Taharin Tyson beat on the Christian Academy defense for 90 yards on 13 carries.

The score withstanding, it was no cakewalk for the Tornadoes.

Christian Academy quarterback Quinn Epperly bombed Alcoa’s secondary for 302 yards and five touchdowns on 24-of-49 passing. Davis Howell and Josh Smith both had a pair of scoring catches. Franklin Murchishon had the fifth. It was 23-21 Alcoa at the half.

How it goes down: You really can’t change a lot at this point. Six-time defending state champion Alcoa, seeking to extend its 40-game win streak, has been held to less than 250 yards rushing only once this season, and McMinn Central got hammered in that one, 51-0. The Tornadoes still haven’t thrown 10 passes in a game in almost three seasons now, and they aren’t likely to change that approach for the Warriors.

Epperly wasn’t named a finalist for Mr. Football, but you could make a powerful argument he should have been. The Warrior lefty has thrown for 3,252 yards and 42 touchdowns entering the rematch, and the Christian Academy senior missed the Loudon game. Alcoa didn’t blitz much, at least initially, in the previous meeting. That’s likely to change.

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