BY BRIAN HAMILTON
ALCOA – Alcoa returns Class 3A championship MVP quarterback Caden Buckles, who spearheaded a 41-point outburst in the first half, as the Tornadoes went on to a 41-13 win. Alcoa scored on five of its first six drives before calling off the dogs in the second half.
“Forty points is never expected in the first half, but we just dominated,” Buckles said after the game. “That’s probably one of the best halves of football I’ve seen in a long time.”
The six-time defending state champions got on the scoreboard quick, as running back Jordan Harris returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Rhea 4-yard line. Buckles then went into the end zone to give Alcoa a 7-0 lead.
Alcoa’s next possession also resulted in a score, as the Tornadoes went on a nine-play, 42-yard drive, which ended with a 7-yard pass from Buckles to Harris for a 14-0 advantage with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
Rhea County would answer on their next possession, however, as quarterback Kaleb Martin ran for a 9-yard touchdown run. The extra-point attempt failed, leaving Alcoa in front 14-6.
Early in the second quarter, the Tornadoes went on a quick, four-play, 55-yard drive, resulting in a 3-yard Elijah Cannon touchdown run and a 21-6 lead.
Later in the second quarter, the Tornadoes took advantage of a Rhea County turnover and two plays later, Buckles ran into the end zone for a 17-yard score and a 28-6 advantage.
Buckles ran for his third touchdown of the day on a 3-yard scamper with 1:54 remaining in the first half. The extra-point attempt failed, leaving Alcoa in front 34-6. On the following Rhea County possession, the Eagles fumbled the ball, which was picked up by Brayden Cornett and returned for a score with just three seconds left in the half. The Tornadoes led 41-6 at the intermission.
Neither team scored in the third quarter and the only score in the second half was a 60-yard touchdown run by Hunter Crowe with less than four minutes left in the game, making the final score 41-13.
Originally, Alcoa did not have a season opening game, but a cancellation by Corbin (KY), who Rhea County was originally scheduled to play, opened up the opportunity for these two teams to play.
It is not difficult to see why nobody wanted any part in a season opener against Alcoa, as the Tornadoes, a 3A power, outright dominated a Class 5A school that won 10 games in 2020.
Alcoa’s next game will be at home against Gatlinburg-Pittman (0-1) next Friday, while Rhea County (0-1) will travel to Elizabethton to face the two-time Class 4A defending champions.