The Maryville Ortho Tennessee Blount County Jamboree is the unofficial start of football season in Blount County.
It’s also an opportunity for coaches to experiment and see what their teams need to work on heading into Week 1.
“It’s just one quarter, we know everyone in the jamboree is playing a lot of people just like we are,” William Blount coach Philip Shadowens said. “We just want to see our kids compete.”
Five local teams — Alcoa, Heritage, Greenback, Maryville and William Blount — played at least one 15-minute quarter Friday night at Alcoa, with the Tornadoes playing two as the host school. All three matchups were close, with Maryville edging Greenback 14-13 in the first quarter before William Blount tied Alcoa 10-10 in the third following the skills competition. Heritage took a seven-point lead over Alcoa in the final scrimmage before the Tornadoes bounced back with two unanswered touchdowns for a 14-7 win.
Shadowens had plenty to smile about after the Governors faced the Class 3A powerhouse. Trailing 10-7 in the final minute, William Blount quarterback Trey Clemmer fed flanker Noah Durman to the right. Durman launched a pass across the field to Micah Franklin, who was sprinting down the left sideline. Franklin made the catch for a 35-yard play, setting up Job Matossian for the game-tying 44-yard field goal.
Matossian also shined in the second quarter, winning the punting and kicking competitions. Clemmer scored William Blount’s only touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. Shadowens said communication and tackling will be the focuses this week ahead of the season opener against Maryville.
“There’s no way to address tackling by just talking about it,” Shadowens said. “We’ve gotten better, but tonight they had some pretty good athletes and they’re not easy to tackle. Just like next week when we play Maryville — they have big-time athletes as well, so we’ve got to be better tacklers.”
Alcoa’s Camden Burdon picked his way into the end zone on an 8-yard run before Zeke Rankin’s 27-yard field goal rounded out the Tornadoes’ scoring.
“There wasn’t much to like in the first quarter,” Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said of the Tornadoes’ performance against William Blount. “The second quarter, I thought our young the kids played hard.”
Against Heritage, Alcoa scored twice in the final two and a half minutes.
Freshman running back Jordan Harris broke loose for 42 yards to score Alcoa’s first touchdown before Itty Salter capped a drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone, putting Alcoa ahead in the final 20 seconds.
That winning play was made possible by back-to-back catches of more than 20 yards by sophomore Isaiah Bryant from freshman quarterback Zach Lunsford.
Alcoa will open its season against Blackman on Saturday. Rankin said the major thing his team is lacking remains leadership.
“I think some of our kids think we just walk out on the field with Alcoa across the chest and people fall over and play dead,” Rankin said. “If it doesn’t get better, we’ll ask our juniors to be leaders. Put them at the front of the lines and we’ll take them out for captains.”
Triston Hurst scored Heritage’s only points against Alcoa on a 3-yard run.
Heritage coach Tim Hammontree said a major focus this week will be on improving the Mountaineers’ kicking game, with senior Zach Suttles stepping into that role.
“We’ve got a brand-new kicker, and he has done really great,” Hammontree said. “But we’ve got to put the pressure on him this week so he’ll be ready.”
Greenback opened its game against Maryville with a quick 3-and-out when Maryville stopped the Cherokees’ run game. The Rebels scored on the following possession when Parker McGill ran through tackles for a 20-yard rushing touchdown.
At that point, Greenback decided to move the ball through the air. The Cherokees kicked off a 75-yard scoring drive with a 20-yard pass from Braden Carnes to Holden Willis. Carnes completed passes for 17 and 16 yards before Austin Burger scored on a 1-yard run.
Greenback scored again on its next possession for a 13-7 advantage following a failed extra point attempt. The Rebels quickly snagged back momentum when backup quarterback Carson Jones broke loose for a 63-yard rushing touchdown with three and a half minutes remaining. Maryville converted the extra point for the victory.
Greenback coach Greg Ryan said his team will work on lining up and practice formation recognition on defense to avoid allowing big plays such as Jones’.
“Obviously we have to be able to line up — we can’t run and make tackles until we get in the right spot,” Ryan said. “Now it’s just about getting guys lined up on defense and playing the game from there.”