Two of the best players in the Daily Times coverage area are on top of the Tennessee high school football world.
Spurred by his state record for receiving touchdowns, Greenback’s Holden Willis on Monday afternoon was crowned Mr. Football in Class 1A during the annual awards ceremony at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Alcoa senior Zeke Rankin joined in the fun. He was named Kicker of the Year in all classifications.
Greenback and Alcoa had players honored as winners for the second consecutive year. Alcoa quarterback Walker Russell won Class 3A Mr. Football last season, and Greenback quarterback Bryce Hanley won the award in Class 1A.
It has been virtually impossible for fellow Class 1A opponents to cover Willis during his record-breaking season.
He has 72 receptions for 1,697 yards and 28 receiving touchdowns. The previous state record of 26 receiving touchdowns was set by Independence’s Nathan Johnson in 2015.
Willis has had two of his best games in the Cherokees’ last two playoff games. He had 11 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the quarterfinal win over Oliver Springs and followed that with eight catches for 183 yards and two more touchdowns in the last-minute semifinal victory over South Pittsburg.
Willis will be a focal point yet again Friday when Greenback faces Lake County in the Class 1A BlueCross Bowl at 11 a.m. CT at Tucker Stadium in Cookeville. The Cherokees could win their second state title in three seasons.
Rankin made 4 of 7 field goals this season and 78 of 79 extra points. Before the season began he announced a fundraiser through which money has been donated to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital based on the number of kick he makes.
Alcoa junior defensive lineman Grey Carroll also was invited to Monday’s ceremony as a finalist for the Class 3A Mr. Football Award. Stratford’s James Moore was named the winner.
Carroll and Rankin will lead Alcoa in the Class 3A BlueCross Bowl at 3 p.m. CT Friday against Pearl-Cohn. The Tornadoes are seeking their fifth consecutive state title, which would extend their TSSAA record of 17 overall.