Alcoa Rolls To Seventh Straight BlueCross Bowl Title

Tornadoes Storm Past East Nashville, 45-14, For 20th Title In School History

Friday, December 3, 2021 - by Joseph Dycus
Alcoa running back Jordan harros (9) carries for yardage against East Nashville Friday in the DI-AA championship game at Finley Stadium.  Harris had 69 yards against the Eagles as the Tornadoes earned their 20h title win in school history with a convincing 45-14 win. East nashville's Jerry Campbell (8) and Junior Braxton (10) are in on the tackle.
Alcoa running back Jordan harros (9) carries for yardage against East Nashville Friday in the DI-AA championship game at Finley Stadium. Harris had 69 yards against the Eagles as the Tornadoes earned their 20h title win in school history with a convincing 45-14 win. East nashville's Jerry Campbell (8) and Junior Braxton (10) are in on the tackle.
- photo by Lawson Whitaker
Major Newman was lined up right on the line of scrimmage, crouched over like a sprinter. The 6'3 athlete burst forward as the East Nashville punter took the snap, and was about to make one of the biggest plays of Alcoa's 45-14 DI-AAA BlueCross Bowl win over the Eagles. Once Newman got past the blockers, he extended his arms and smacked the punt away almost immediately after it left the punter's foot. That block and recovery was one of three huge special teams plays by the winners of seven consecutive state championships. 

"Special teams can change the game faster than the offense or defense can," Newman said. "It's emphasized all throughout the year, and especially in this game. We've been preparing for them for two or three weeks."

If there was ever a time for East Nashville to create a cushion against the overwhelming favorites, it was in the first quarter. Jordan Houston and the Eagle defense induced a punt on Alcoa's first possession, and then the offense methodically began to work downfield. Amarion Ford rushed for solid gains, and Zach Beard passed and dashed around the field for decent gains. 


With the ball on the 18 yard line, Beard prepared for the snap and was ready to continue the productive opening drive, but the ball flew over his head and was eventually recovered all the way back at the 43 yard line by Isaiah Bryant. It was once again up to the defense to make a play, and the Eagle defense was up to the task. 

After quarterback Caden Buckles and runner Elijah Cannon ran behind bookend tackles Tyler Jeffries and Lance Williams, the smaller East Nashville appeared to be reeling. That was when La'monte Shute made the play the Eagles needed. he ripped the ball from Buckles' hands on the 20 yard line, and Houston recovered. 

A third down sack by Alcoa's Jamal Williams on third down snuffed out the Eagle drive though, and it took exactly one play for the Tornadoes to break the scoreless deadlock. Do-everything stud Isaiah Bryant ran underneath a Buckles bomb, and hauled it in at least five yards in front of the nearest defender. He strolled in for a 47 yard touchdown with a minute and a half left in the first quarter. 

After staying competitive for 12 minutes, it all fell apart in the second quarter. Following a three and out, East Nashville's punt was blocked by Major Newman and recovered by Alcoa on the 20 yard line. It took only three plays for Buckles to punch in a one-yarder to put the Tornadoes up 14-0. 

The special teams nightmare continued on the next Eagle possession, when a Joe McCord sack on third and long brought the punter out for another go. And like the last punt, a block gave Alcoa the ball inside the 20 yard line. Caden Buckles ran in for another six yard score to make it officially a blowout. While the offense was now humming, the Alcoa defense, led by seniors like Michael Williams, made sustaining drives a chore for East Nashville. 

"Winning championships never gets old," Williams said. "But knowing that this is my last game with these guys is going to hit me hard. We've built a brotherhood here."

East Nashville's special teams continued to be their own worst enemy on the ensuing kickoff. The return man raced up the right sideline and then fumbled the ball. Newman recovered it on the 25 yard line, and Jordan Harris pounded it in from the one yard line for the fourth touchdown of the half. A Zach Beard three yard score late in the quarter ended the second quarter with Alcoa up 28-7.  

"After that first quarter, we kind of had our heads down a little bit since we felt like we were the way better team and we should have been more dominant than we were," Newman said.

East Nashville came out of the halftime locker room on fire. Beard was slinging it from sideline to sideline, with passes to receivers like Frank Gordon IV and Willie Wilson stretching the defense while he and Ford continued to get yardage on the ground. Ford wasn't the biggest guy on the field, but it always seemed to take two or three defenders to bring him down. 

With a little over seven minutes to go in the third quarter, Beard put his trust in Gordon IV on a fade route. His number one receiver rewarded Beard's trust by winning the jumpball in the corner of the endzone to make it a 28-14 score. The Eagle defense came out ready on Alcoa's next possession and got Alcoa into a fourth and five. 

Jordan Harris got the pass out in the flat on fourth down, and had to beat one defender to get the first around midfield. He pulled off a slick move and dove over the first down line to keep the drive alive. Another Harris run a few plays later went 27 yards, breaking tackles and ankles to get to the five yard line. Alcoa's field goal by Bacon Lauderback went through the uprights to make it 31-14. 

A 24 yard Itty Salter foray down the left sideline in the fourth quarter turned it back into a blowout. The Eagles offense was held in check by a fast and refreshed Alcoa defense for the last quarter, and Alcoa's boys walked off the field champions for the seventh straight year. The Tornadoes have won 20 in total, and coach Gary Rankin has now won 13 at the school.

"Coach said they'll break before we break, and I truly believe that, and it's something I'll take throughout my life and football," Newman said. "They'll break before we break. We will not break, because we're ready to go for 48 minutes straight. "

Stats

EAST NASHVILLE      0       7     7      0 -- 14
ALCOA                        7     21     3    14--  45

 
AL –  Isaiah Bryant 47 pass from Caden Buckles (Bacon Lauderback kick) (1:26, 1st)
AL  – Caden Buckles 1 run (Bacon Lauderback kick) (9:30, 2nd)
AL –  Caden Buckles 6 run (Bacon Lauderback kick) (6:17, 2nd)
AL –  Jordan Harris 1 run (Bacon Lauderback kick) (4:51, 2nd)
EN – Zacchaeus Beard 3 run (Rene Lainez-Polanco kick) (1:25, 2nd)
EN – Frank Gordon IV 12 pass from Zacchaeus Beard (Rene Lainez-Polanco kick) (7:19, 3rd)
AL – Bacon Lauderback 20 field goal (2:14, 3rd)
AL – Itty Salter 24 run (Bacon Lauderback kick) (10:56, 4th)
AL – Caden Buckles 2 run (Bacon Lauderback kick) (6:23, 4th)

EN                STATS             AL
11                 1st Downs       16               
42-59            Rush               36-216                         
65                 Pass               117                       
124               Total                333                     
9-16-0           Passes           12-17-1                      
3-15              Penalties         7-45                    
4-5.5             Punts              2-27.0                   
3-2                Fumbles          1-1               
 
Individual Stats
 
Rushing: Amarion Ford 29-102, Willie Wilson .2-16, Frank Gordon IV 1-8, De’varrius Trotter 2-(-12), Zacchaeus Beard 6-(-28), TEAM 2-(-27) (EN); Jordan Harris 7-69, Caden Buckles 14-52, Itty Salter 6-45, Elijah Cannon 5-36, DJ Foster 2-9, Shannon Salter 2-5 (AL)
Passing: Zacchaeus Beard 9-16-0 for 65 yards (EN); Caden Buckles 12-17-1 for 117 yards (AL)
Receiving: Frank Gordon IV 6-61, Willie Wilson 3-4 (EN); Jordan Harris 5-43, Major Newman 3-7, Isaiah Bryant 2-52, Itty Salter 1-10, DJ Foster 1-5 (AL)
 
Records: East Nashville (10-5), Alcoa (13-1)
 
MVP: Caden Buckles (Alcoa)

(Do you have an opinion on this article, or have a story you believe needs coverage? You can contact the author at Joseph.A.Dycus@gmail.com or on Twitter at @joseph_dycus)



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