The West Greene football team became the first to score a touchdown on Alcoa in seven games Friday night in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Alcoa senior C.J. Armstrong didn’t give the Buffaloes much time to celebrate. He returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to the end zone.
"It was like electricity in my body," Armstrong said. "Just like a spark."
The Tornadoes’ shutout streak ended, but they took a step forward in the postseason with a 56-6 victory at Bill Bailey Stadium.
The Region 2 tp seed, Alcoa (10-1) will host region opponent Gatlinburg-Pittman (9-2) in the second round after No. 3 seed G-P won over Region 1 No. 2 seed Unicoi County. The Tornadoes won their last matchup with the Highlanders, 49-0.
“We came out healthy, and that’s the biggest thing,” Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said. “That’s what you want to do — just win and advance.”
No 4 seed West Greene (6-5) scored its lone touchdown with 5:22 left in the second quarter. From the Buffaloes 23, quarterback Allen Vaughn found Chase Jennings on a stop route. Also a track standout, Jennings turned on the jets and took the ball 77 yards to the end zone.
West Greene coach Heath Boles said scoring was a team goal heading into the game.
“Our kids fought hard, and you’ve got a great football team here at Alcoa,” Boles said. “Coach Rankin does a great job, but I’m proud of my kids and the effort they gave.”
Scoring on Alcoa is certainly at notable accomplishment. However, the game was already well out of the Buffaloes' reach as their touchdown cut Alcoa’s lead to 42-6.
The Tornadoes had already benched most of their starters, including their secondary.
Still, Rankin thought it was a touchdown that should have been prevented because the cornerback and safety failed to make plays.
“It wasn’t a thing of them scoring points. It was a thing of us not executing on defense that we really didn’t like,” Rankin said. “We’re always striving for perfection. We don’t care what the score or situation is. We should have made the play.”
Armstrong decided to make a play of his own. His kick return for a touchdown was his second score of the night after finding the end zone on a 36-yard run in the first quarter. Before that, he intercepted West Greene to set up Alcoa on the Buffaloes’ 9. The Tornadoes scored on the first play of that drive.
While waiting for the kickoff, Armstrong said he told his teammates in the backfield exactly what he was about to do.
“I told them, ‘Let me get the ball, I’m going to score,’” Armstrong said. “That’s what I did.”
The Tornadoes got off to a rough start when they fumbled the ball on their opening drive of the game. They made a catch without securing the ball, and West Greene punched it out, recovering it at its own 25.
“We came out sloppy, honestly,” Armstrong said. “We need to protect the ball, but we just really had to go get it back on defense.”
The Tornadoes did just that, and the rest is history. They entered the second quarter ahead 28-0. Along with Armstrong’s score, the Tornadoes got touchdowns from Camden Burden, Ahmaudd Sankey and Caden Tollett on runs of 9, 13 and 9 yards.
In the second quarter, Jeffrey Bass scored on a 2-yard run before Sam Vaulton connected with Ronald Jackson for an 11-yard score.
After Armstrong’s kick return, Tollett rounded out the scoring on a 24-yard run for his second touchdown with 2:47 left in the half.
“We scored a lot of points tonight,” Rankin said. “The biggest thing is protect the ball, but we had a lot of kids do a lot of good things.”