Alcoa Storms To 8th Consecutive State Title

Tornadoes Drop East Nashville, 45-26, For Program's 21st Title

  • Friday, December 2, 2022
  • James Beach

The chants of "ocho, ocho, ocho" rang out as the Alcoa Tornadoes danced around Finley Stadium Friday afternoon, a 45-26 victory over East Nashville in the BlueCross Bowl's 3A state championship game long since secured in the record books.

Record books, it seems which have to be rewritten on an annual basis with this Alcoa football program.

The latest gold ball trophy is the eighth consecutive secured by the dynasty from East Tennessee, adding to the TSSAA record it held with seven straight. It was also the 21st time in its rich history, the Tornadoes have been crowned champs, further adding to that record as well.

"It's another one to put on the shelf," said a jubilant Zach Lunsford, the game's MVP with his 163 passing yards and three TD tosses. "They are all a little different but the same because of the rich tradition and the standard we hold ourselves to. We are accountable for us, for the ones before us, and the ones who will follow, and that's why it's special."

Usually, the Tornadoes (14-1) have made the championship games a flex to their dominance in front of  those who come to pull against the bully, much in the same folks root against the Yankees, the Patriots and Alabama football. Dynasties such as these usually have an intimidation factor of a couple of scores already built in, and having destroyed East Nashville in last year's title game --  45-14 after taking a 28-0 lead -- few gave the Eagles much of a chance.

But, oh, how the Eagles battled in this one, taking a 7-0 lead on their first drive, converting three first downs before Tre'quan Waters broke loose for a 24-yard scoring run with 8:43 left in the first. The PAT was blocked by Eli Owens to limit the damage to 6-0, but it set the mood that East was not going to head south quite so easily this time around.

 East Nashville (12-3) twice forced punts by Alcoa in its initial possessions before the Tornadoes finally got untracked on a short field following East's first punt. Alcoa needed just four plays to cover 46 yards as Lunsford connected with sophomore Luke Cannon for the first of three TD catches, this one from 18 yards out.

"This team came to play and we had to respond. We took it a little personal falling behind a couple of times. Slow start, but we got things going when we needed to," added Lunsford.

East was happy to give them things to respond to as well. The Eagles took a 14-7 lead by converting two fourth downs on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ended with the aptly named quarterback Zacchaeus Beard burying a three-yard run for score and then adding the conversion run with 7:38 left before half.

That's when Alcoa started doing Alcoa things. As in score 14 points less than two minutes to surge to a 21-14 lead. A short kick was returned to the 49 and Alcoa needed just five plays to cover the distance, Jordan Harris crashing in from the 3. On East's first snap on offense following the play, Brayden Cornett stepped in front of Beard's pass across the middle, intercepting it and taking it 27 yards for the score and a 21-14 lead.

The Eagles, though, continue to claw with Beard converting a third-and-18 play and later bulling it in from the 1 with 31 seconds remaining before half. Kaden Bogan blocked the PAT to leave East down by 21-20 and it looked like the Eagles would be in good shape at the half, compared to the deficit it faced here a year ago.

Thirty seconds and 10 Alcoa poinst later, though, and the mood was decidedly different.

On the kickoff, the East kicker slipped and barely clipped the ball and Alcoa took over at the 49. A screen pass to Jordan Harris took it to the 11 before Lunsford found Cannon open for a score with eight seconds left to make it 28-20. Alcoa's kickoff then took a strange bounce near the 10 and was recovered by Garrison Stephens with just enough time for Bacon Lauderback to drill a 23-yard field goal on the final play.

"We would have felt really good going into the half down one. We felt good about our game plan, but we made mistakes today we haven't made all year. I guess the bright lights were a little too bright. That 10-point swing was a killer. You can't win a state championship with those kind of mistakes, and to beat a team like Alcoa you have to be solid in all facets of the game, and we weren't' said East Nashville coach Jamaal Stewart.

But the smaller Eagles came out determined to get back in it, and they did. After holding Alcoa and getting a partially blocked punt, East went 42 yards in 8 plays with Beard fitting in a pass in tight window to Bobby Joyner on a 5-yard score. The conversion run failed, but East was back within 31-26.

And once again, Alcoa was up to the task, going 44 yards on two plays, the final one being Cannon's third TD catch from 44 yards to push it back out to 38-26 with 11:32 left in the game. The Tornadoes scored again less than four minutes later to put the dagger in East with Harris going in on a 12-yard run with 7:36 remaining to push it the final 45-26 margin.

While the title was the eighth in a row and 17th in the last 23 years for Alcoa, it was the first for long-time assistant Brian Nix, who took the reins from Gary Rankin, the state's all-time winningest coach after Rankin left after last year's title.

"It's special because I've coached here for 15 years, but what makes it special is because of the guys who chose to stay here and coach with me. The job they did and do is incredible. And the players who chose to play hard for me, and keep this thing going," said Nix of his first title as head coach. "I'm proud of the way we responded because give East credit, they did not stop fighting all day long."

Indeed they did. The 26 points were the second most points Alcoa has given up in the 23 state title games they have played.

The two teams were pretty even in offensive yards, East outgaining Alcoa, 312-300 by running 24 more plays from scrimmage. Waters had 120 rushing yards for East and Beard passed for 108 and rushed for another 49. Frank Gordon IV caught six of the completions for 79 yards.  Alcoa got 82 yards on the ground from Elijah Cannon and Lunsford was 8-of-13 for the 163 yards, hitting Luke Cannon for three of them and 96 yards.

"I just had to make sure the seniors went out on a high note. That was the plan, and I'm excited we did just that," said Cannon, the sophomore.

Aaron Davis had 10 tackles, including a sack and two for loss yardage to pace Alcoa while Colby Barrett added 11 and Joe McCord nine. East was led on defense by Kelan Anderson with nine tackles and William Ofoegbu had five with three of them being for losses.

SUMMARY

ALCOA

7

24

0

14

-- 45

EAST NASHVILLE

6

14

6

0

-- 26

EN Trequan Waters 24 run (kick blocked) (8:34, 1st)

AL Luke Cannon 18 pass from Zach Lunsford (Bacon Lauderback kick) (1:30, 1st)

EN Zacchaeus Beard 3 run (Beard run) (7:38, 2nd)

AL Jordan Harris 3 run (Lauderback kick) (5:43, 2nd)

AL Brayden Cornett 27 interception return (Lauderback kick) (4:50, 2nd)

EN Beard 1 run (kick blocked) (0:31, 2nd)

AL Cannon 11 pass from Lunsford (Lauderback kick) (0:08, 2nd)

AL Lauderback 23 field goal (0:0, 2nd)

EN Bobby Joyner 5 pass from Beard (run fail) (3:45, 3rd)

AL Cannon 44 pass from Lunsford (Lauderback kick) (11:32, 4th)

AL Harris 12 run (Lauderback kick) (7:36, 4th)

STATS

AL

EN

First Downs

15

19

Rushes-Yards

27-137

46-158

Passing Yards

163

154

Total yards

300

312

Passing (Comp-Att-Int)

8-13-0

11-18-1

Penalties-Yards

6-52

5-46

Punts-Average

4-26.5

3-19

Fumbles-Lost

1-0

1-1

Time of Possession

19:25

28:35

Individual Stats

Rushing: Elijah Cannon 13-82; Jordan Harris 7-14; Colby Barrett 2-9;Eli Graf 2-3; Zach Lunsford 3-(-3) (AL); Trequan Waters 20-119; Zacchaeus Beard 15-49; Purez Winstead 5-10; Keith Johnson 1-4; Frank Gordon IV 1-2; Martez Lamb 3-(-25) (EN).

Passing: Zach Lunsford 8-13-0 for 163 yards, 3 TDs (AL); Zacchaeus Beard 10-17-1 for 108 yards, 1TD: Martez Lamb -1-0 for 46 yards (EN).

Receiving: Luke Cannon 3-72; Jordan Harris 1-40; Elijah Cannon 1-27; Eli Owens 3-23 (AL); Frank Gordon IV 6-79; D’Anthony Lanier 2-26; Bobby Joyner 3-49 (EN).

Records: Alcoa 14-1; East Nashville 12-3

Most Valuable Player: Zach Lunsford, Alcoa

Notable: This was Alcoa’s 21st state title, sets the record for most TSSAA state football championships

(Contact James Beach at 1134james@gmail.com)

Prep Sports
PREP SCHEDULES
  • 3/31/2023

(Coaches/ADs: Please send any schedule corrections or addititions to Dennis Norwood, Prep Sports Editor, at dennisnorwood56@gmail.com; send your results to sports@chattanoogan.com) Prep Schedules: ... more

Red Bank Gets Hot On Senior Night With Win Over East Ridge
  • 2/7/2023

Red Bank improved to 16-13 on the season as Lions’ seniors Javonta Johnson and Kalen Sewell earn an honorable send-off on Senior Night with a 68-50 win over East Ridge. "It is all about getting ... more