No let down alert for Alcoa’s playoff start
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The first round of the playoffs will probably be nothing compared to the last two weeks of the regular season for Gary Rankin’s Alcoa team.
But don’t expect a letdown from Alcoa (9-1), the No. 1 team in the state in Class 3A and the No. 1 seed in its quad, when eighth-seeded McMinn Central (5-5) makes a trip to Goddard Field Friday night.
“That’s my fault if there is,” Rankin told The Daily Times on Wednesday.
“We practice hard. You sure can’t come out here in practice and say, ‘Boy, we sure won a big game last week.’ I think that’s where the letdown comes.”
Letdowns aren’t something that happen to Rankin’s teams, be it big game or, well, not so big.
Alcoa had three games on the regular season schedule that were bigger than others in Maryville, Fulton and Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Maryville, the No. 1 team in Class 6A, was the only blemish of the three, but it was a close game well into the fourth quarter.
Alcoa beat then one-loss Fulton 31-7 — a team that finished No. 5 in the Class 4A polls — in Knoxville and won the District 4-AA championship last Friday with a 31-28 win over No. 3 CAK.
Ignoring the 70 points Maryville and CAK combined to score on Alcoa, Brian Nix’s defense allowed just 33 points for the season and posted four shutouts against in the lesser games on the schedule.
“Our kids don’t usually overlook anybody,” Rankin said. “We usually play like we’re supposed to play. I think that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Not overlooking anyone starts Friday against McMinn Central, the first road block on the road to Cookeville.
“I think they’ve got to come in here and not make any mistakes,” Rankin said of McMinn, a team that finished the season 5-5. “They’re going to run the ball first.
“They’ve got to come in here, and I’m sure they’re shooting for that perfect game — no turnovers, try to control the ball and keep it away from us, I would think.”
Nix’s defense may have played it’s best game in giving up 28 points to what was an undefeated CAK team that averaged 44.8 points per game going into last week.
“You would hope you get better everyday,” Nix said of his defense playing it’s best come playoff time.
“You don’t work to beat a single opponent, you work on the things you’re not doing well.”
A win Friday night would mean hosting either No. 4 Sweetwater (7-3) or No. 5 Tyner Academy (8-2) before a potential third round rematch against CAK.
Alcoa eliminated Tyner 17-7 in the first round last season.
“I don’t know if we got the best of draws,” Rankin said. “Tyner is one of the most dangerous teams in our bracket. They’ve got to speed and athletes.
“They’re dangerous for sure.”
But Tyner isn’t the concern this week. Instead, it’s first getting past McMinn Central without a let down.
“You play, if you’re lucky, 15 games max,” Nix said. “If you have a let down, it’s crazy as hard as we work.
“I don’t think that can happen. I don’t think I’ve ever had a game where we’ve just had a let down, where our kids didn’t come out ready to play.”