The Alcoa offense started a bit slowly after not having seen live game action for two weeks after winning by COVID-19 forfeit last Friday night — just as Alcoa coach Gary Rankin expected.
The Tornado defense showed no similar slowdown, and once the offense got on track, Alcoa returned to its usual form and battered Tyner Academy, 42-0, Friday on Goddard Field.
Two dropped passes and a negative yardage play cut short the Alcoa opening drive with a turnover on downs. After the defense forced the first of five Tyner punts, the Tornado offense picked up speed, scoring on its next six possessions.
“We were a little rusty early, we just weren’t crisp,” Rankin told The Daily Times. ”We dropped the ball and had a couple of offside penalties. After we got going, I thought we played pretty well.”
Alcoa (8-1) used seven different runners to ring up 285 yards on 28 carries. Elijah Cannon blasted for 63 yards on six carries and Major Newman finished with 55 yards on five totes. Iggy Salter and D.J. Foster posted the two rushing touchdowns on carries of 17 and 47 yards, respectively.
Caden Buckles was superb in the air. After suffering the two early drops, the senior quarterback carved through the Tyner secondary, finishing 12-of-15 for 148 yards and three scores, including two long throws dropped precisely into the arms of Jamal Williams and Newman as they raced full-speed into the Tyner end zone.
“Receivers definitely bailed me out a few times,” Buckles said. “Newman and Williams both made great catches in the end zone. They got open, I threw it to them, and it just worked all night.”
The Tornado defense limited Tyner (6-3) to 112 total yards, all but 18 of those picked up after Alcoa took a 21-0 lead into halftime. The Rams mustered just 22 rushing yards on nine attempts, and 59 of the Tyner 103 aerial yards came on a successful screen pass.
A long punt return led to a quick two-play drive capped by Salter’s 17-yard scamper and a 35-0 lead early in the third quarter. The long screen pass on the ensuing possession set the Rams up at the Alcoa 6-yard line, but the Tornadoes would not concede. After two failed runs and two incomplete passes preserved the shutout, Alcoa took possession at its own 7-yard line and needed just four plays to keep the mercy clock running and close out scoring, with a 47-yard race down the sideline from Foster after three strong Cannon shots moved them near midfield.
Buckles opened scoring with a 4-yard rollout to finish a 10-play, 55-yard drive late in the first quarter.
A 31-yard Jordan Harris punt return started the next Alcoa drive, which ended nine plays later with Buckles hitting Newman from his inside slot position for a 7-yard score.
Tyner converted its first first down of the game but again the Tornadoes stiffened quickly. After a reverse to Newman started the next drive with a solid 23-yard gain, Buckles finished it in higher fashion, firing a strike to Williams on a post route. Williams caught the ball dragging one foot in bounds as he crashed to the end zone fence for the final 25-yards with just over two minutes remaining before the break.
Alcoa wasn’t ready for the rest. The defense forced another punt, then Buckles hit Brennen Duggan for two quick first downs. Newman made an outstanding leap along the home sidelines for another score and the 28-0 halftime lead with just six seconds on the clock.
Rankin praised both of those playmakers in post-game comments.
“(Buckles) is one of the best quarterbacks in east Tennessee, if not the state,” Rankin said. “He’s got all the qualities you look for in a quarterback — leadership, confidence, knows the offense — he’s got it all. He had another good game, no doubt.”
Newman was a top rusher and top receiver and also had key breakups from his safety position on defense.
“We asked a lot of (Newman) early,” Rankin said. “We had one kid hurt and another one suspended the first half, so (Newman) had to play a lot more. He got burnt out a little bit at one point but he just gave us a great effort.”
Tyner moved well on its first drive of the second half but again stalled and Isaiah Bryant added another long return. The Tornadoes needed only 32 seconds to cover the final 24 yards with Salter’s 17-yard score.
The defense had one interception cancelled by an inadvertent whistle and had a pick-six return from Bryant negated by penalty.
Alcoa returns to Region 2-3A action with Homecoming festivities planned for its home game against Austin-East on Oct. 29.