Alcoa, CAK clash tonight for title
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maryville has always been ‘the’ game on the Alcoa schedule.
Now ‘the other’ game on the Alcoa schedule is CAK. And whether Gary Rankin or his team admits it or not, that ‘other’ game has been circled on the calender for a while now.
“We’re pretty excited,” Alcoa’s senior tailback Ezekial Koko told The Daily Times Tuesday. “We’ve been waiting for this game for the longest time.
“They took our streak away from us. That’s the team we’re measuring up to.”
That streak CAK took away from Koko and Alcoa was seven-straight state championships. CAK eliminated Alcoa from the Class 3A playoffs last season with a 38-37 overtime win in the quarterfinal round.
CAK also claimed the District 4-AA title last season, too, with a 24-14 win over Alcoa in the last week of the regular season — the first win in 12 tries against Alcoa, which included six regular season defeats and six playoff eliminations in six-straight years.
But Alcoa will get a chance to right what was wronged last season, when No. 2 CAK (9-0, 4-0 District. 4-AA) visits No. 1 Alcoa (8-1, 4-0) tonight with the district title back on the line. The game, which kicks off at 7 p.m., will be televised by MyVLT2.
“We played CAK last year and they beat us, and they deserved to beat us,” Rankin said after his team’s practice Tuesday. “They played better, they made more plays. Our kids gave good effort and stuff, we just came up short.
“We don’t talk about revenge much around here. We haven’t said anything.”
Revenge is something Alcoa has gotten plenty of this season, even if Rankin and his staff don’t talk about it.
An uncharacteristic 2011 season saw Alcoa lose as many games — five — as Rankin has state championships since taking over the Tornado program.
“It’s a new year, a new season,” Rankin said, whose team has bounced back to a No. 1 ranking in the Class 3A polls the last two weeks.
“(CAK) has a great ball team. We’ve got a great ball team. Certainly two of the better 3A teams in the state for sure.”
The two teams were tied for the top spot in the Class 3A polls entering Week 8. But that was before Alcoa went to the then No. 3 team in Class 4A, Fulton, and dismantled the one-loss Falcons, 30-7, last week.
Alcoa took over No. 1 in the polls this week, receiving 15 of the 19 first place votes.
But the No. 2 team, whi sat at No. 1 for the first eight weeks, in the state coming to top-ranked Alcoa isn’t any bigger than any other game on the schedule.
Alcoa played Maryville, the top-ranked team in the 6A polls, on ESPN in August. A clearly upset Alcoa team ran over defending state champion Greeneville — another team that handed Alcoa a decisive loss last season — in a 42-0 blowout in September.
“That was a different game,” Rankin said of Greeneville. “That was almost a beat down. It’s a whole different deal (against CAK).”
Added Koko: “The way we played for those games, it was for those purposes or reasons. This game, we have the same intentions. They beat us last year, so we’re trying to just get back what we had.
“They’re holding the title right now and we want it. So basically, we’re going after them.”
Rankin’s team has had opportunities to get too excited for an opponent, but Rankin said his staff keeps the atmosphere calm during the week.
“We’ve been in big games,” Rankin said. “We weren’t hyped up on the ESPN game. We’ve had chances. So our kids do that. But I think that comes from our coaches. We don’t get them hyped up. We go about everyday at the same level.
“You’re always up a little more for big games. And that usually takes care of itself.”
Both these teams have went after each other in recent years.
CAK winning its first state title last year behind quarterback Charlie High and wide out Josh Smith — the two players who have led CAK to a 9-0 start again this year — has only added fuel to the fire leading up to the last week of the season and the two teams finally coming together.
Rankin said it’s a big game for both teams, but its a long way from a trip to Cookeville and a shot at another state title in December.
“Everyone thinks that the winner of this game, for some reason, is the state champs,” Rankin said. “They’re not. There’s good teams in West Tennessee. There’s good teams in Middle Tennessee.
“For somebody to say whoever comes out of the Alcoa-CAK game is automatic state champ, I don’t think they know a lot about football.”