Alcoa gave it all for 40 ticks
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Gary Rankin’s Alcoa football team was an after thought all week.
All the talk was TV, turf and titles — and it was all about Maryville.
Afterall, the Rebels had a new artificial surface, a new videoboard and new state championship banners at Shields Stadium — and a national television audience to show them off to as the host to the ESPN2 broadcast.
But for the first 40 minutes of the 48-minute contest it looked like Rankin and Alcoa were ready to crash the party and steal the headlines.
“Up until the 8-minute mark it was a great game,” Rankin said, “after that, it showed not so good on our part.”
Rankin's Tornadoes couldn’t have done much more in the first 40 minutes Sunday — and it showed on the scoreboard.
Alcoa led its heated rival 24-21 with a little over 8 minutes left on the game clock. The ball bounced Maryville’s way after that, though.
“We kept fighting and fighting and fighting,” Rankin said. “I’m proud of them — it’s just tough.”
Alcoa had out-everythinged Maryville up until the turning point, when a miscommunication between Alcoa’s Ezekial Koko and Malik Love caused a lost fumble on a kickoff return that was never cleanly fielded. Maryville, fresh off a touchdown to take a 28-24 lead, recovered deep in Alcoa territory and put the game away.
In all, the Rebels scored three touchdowns in the final 4:34, giving the scoreboard the look of a blowout at 42-24.
The stats told a different story.
Alcoa had 363 total yards to Maryville’s 256.
Alcoa quarterback Peyton Wall completed 9-of-11 passes for 227 yards — including a 64-yard touchdown pass to Love and a 47-yard pass to Mustafa Anthony to set up another score. Maryville’s Nick Myers threw for 170.
Alcoa used six running backs to wear down Maryville, going for 175 yards on the ground. Maryville’s Shawn Prevo and Trenton Shuler — who last week combined for 400 rushing yards in a win over Cleveland — were limited to a combined 105 yards.
“They didn’t run it on us at will like they did last week against Cleveland,” Rankin said. “I thought that was pretty good.”
When Maryville punched, Alcoa punched back.
Maryville led 7-0 and 21-14 before seeing Alcoa twice erase the lead and take one of its own.
Love and Koko had touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to turn the early seven point deficit into a 14-7 lead.
Myers scored on a 10-yard keeper to give Maryville a 21-14 lead after a third quarter Alcoa fumble. Alcoa bounced back, again, scoring 10 unanswered points.
But the telling stat was turnovers. Maryville had none. Alcoa had three. And the second of the three was the knockout punch.
“Two of our best players,” Rankin said after the game about the botched kickoff return. “What can you say?”
You can say for the first 40 minutes Alcoa kept the two-time defending Class 6A state champions off balance on both sides of the ball.
Or that little 3A Alcoa, despite 8 minutes of bad football, nearly stole the show on national television.
“I thought our kids handled it well,” Rankin said. “Until the last 8 minutes of the game we played about as best as we could.”
Grant Ramey is a sports writer at The Daily Times. He can be reached at grantr@thedailytimes. You can follow him on Twitter @TDT_Sports.