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Alcoa’s D.J. Foster runs against Pigeon Forge on Friday during the Class 3A quarterfinals at Goddard Field.

When D.J. Foster cruised down the field Friday at Bill Bailey Stadium, evading Pigeon Forge defenders for a 68-yard rushing touchdown. It didn’t come as a shock to Alcoa coach Gary Rankin.

Had it happened earlier in the season, Rankin may have been more surprised.

The senior has proven his mettle in the latter part of the season, standing out in a talented Tornado roster. He had both a rushing touchdown and a receiving score during Alcoa’s 52-0 quarterfinal win over Pigeon Forge adding to what’s been an impressive postseason for the tailback.

“(Foster) had a great game the other night (too),” Rankin told The Daily Times. “He’s come on strong the last two or three weeks, shown some things that we really didn’t know he could do if you want to now the truth about it. He’s broken some long runs, showed some speed, been practicing better.

“He’s one of those kids that waited his turn, and when he got his chances, he’s taking advantage of them. So he’s really been a huge surprise the last couple of weeks and just playing great.”

Foster’s 68-yard rushing score marked Alcoa’s third touchdown. With seconds remaining in the first quarter, he weaved to the sideline and ran swiftly to the end zone, pushing the Tornadoes (12-1) further ahead early in what would be another postseason drubbing for Alcoa.

“I got to the outside on that run,” Foster said. “I had some extra blocks. Without the blocks, I probably would’ve gotten tackled.”

For his second touchdown, Foster snagged a pass from quarterback Caden Buckles and completed the 47-yard catch-and-run. On a night four different Tornadoes scored a touchdown on the ground, he led Alcoa in rushing, totaling 100 yards on just five carries for a 20 yards-per-carry average.

A third of the yards Foster has accumulated for the season came Friday, as he entered the game with 200 total yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. He helped pace an Alcoa offense that scored six of its seven touchdowns on the ground.

“The team team played pretty well, I’m not going to lie,” Foster said. “We did well. We just played really well today and I hope we play well next week and the week after and win state.”

Foster’s performance only built on what he did the game prior. In Alcoa’s 63-0 playoff win over Gatlinburg-Pittman, he notched a 28-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, contributing to a Tornadoes offense that racked up 351 total rushing yards.

In Alcoa’s 42-0 win over Tyner on Oct. 22, Foster also showed his explosiveness, breaking a 47-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the Tornadoes’ final score.

Part of the reason for the senior’s success has been his practice habits, as Rankin said, which can reveal a player’s true level of dedication. He also has the benefit of practicing alongside one of the area’s best running back corps, which includes standouts Jordan Harris and Elijah Cannon, who combined for three touchdowns Friday.

“At practice, we just make ourselves better,” Foster said. “We just help each other get better every day. That’s why we come to practice.”

As the postseason continues and Alcoa gets ever closer to yet another state championship appearance, Foster can be assured his patience has finally paid off.

It’s doing so not only at the most optimal time for the Tornadoes, but for the senior as well in the final games of his Alcoa tenure.

“(My career) has been ups and downs, but it’s just been fun,” Foster said. “It’s been good being here from Pre-K to now. Just seeing all the love around here, it’s a good community.”

Follow @TylerWombles on Twitter for more from sports reporter Tyler Wombles.

Tyler is a sports reporter at The Daily Times. A University of Tennessee alumnus, he previously was the newspaper's cops/courts reporter, as well as the sports editor at The Advocate & Democrat, a fellow APG publication.

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