Tornadoes ready for next test
By David Cobb | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With an extra week to let a 31-2 loss to rival Maryville marinate, Alcoa did not use its oddly placed bye week to begin honing in on its next opponent.
Instead, coach Gary Rankin’s team used its bye week to focus on one thing.
“We worked on us during our bye week,” Rankin told The Daily Times after practice on Wednesday. “We worked on Alcoa, which we should have. I don’t think there was any area that we were very pleased with in the Maryville game.”
The Tornadoes averaged 2.3 yards per carry against Maryville and were held to 177 yards of total offense. The problems, Rankin said, is directly correlated to the play of his usually strong offensive line.
“We’ve been good around here because we’ve been good up front on the offensive line,” Rankin said. “That’s why Alcoa has been good the past five or six years. And right now, we’re questioning whether we are good up front.”
Malik Mitchell, the player Rankin described as “the leader” of Alcoa’s offensive line is expected to return in two weeks, but in the meantime, a Friday night battle at McMinn County (1-2) awaits and excuses are not cutting it.
“We’ve questioned people on their toughness, and most of the time we don’t have to do that around here,” Rankin said. “So we’ll see Friday night. We’ll learn a lot.”
McMinn County opened with a 36-20 win over McMinn Central, but followed it up with a pair of blowout losses to Chattanooga McCallie and Cleveland. Though Rankin is hoping to learn a lot about the toughness of his team in the matchup, he’s not overlooking the Cherokees.
“They’ve played two good teams and that’s a little misleading,” Rankin said of McMinn County’s record. “I hope our kids aren’t looking at that, but they’ve been beat by two fine and well-coached football teams. They always have pretty solid football down there.
“It’s a good town and their town backs their football. So I think it’s going to be a tough team and we’ll be ready.”
It’s the first of four straight road games for Alcoa, which struggled to complete its schedule, resulting in a bye week after two games. Despite its unorthodox placement, Rankin made sure to take advantage of the extra practices.
“It is what it is,” Rankin said. “It’s been a pretty physical bye week. I can tell you that, probably overly physical.”
Rankin said after the Maryville game that the nature of the loss might cost his team “a player or two,” but the veteran coach had no missing players to report on Wednesday.
“I didn’t see any of that,” he said. “That’s up to them, but they might have because of the physicality of our practice the next week.”
Defensively, Rankin said the key will be eliminating busts in the secondary. Maryville’s John Garrett completed only five passes against the Tornadoes, but they went for a total of 162 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s inexcusable, and that’s coaching,” Rankin said. “We can’t get lost, we’ve got to play assignments and get where we need to be.”
Most of all, though, its the mentality of his team that Alcoa’s veteran coach is looking forward to testing.
“I’ll learn a lot Friday,” he said. “I’ll learn more Friday than maybe I’ve learned in a long time here, probably.”