Alcoa runs past Gatlinburg-Pittman to advance to state quarterfinal | Sports

Jordan Harris’ celebration was short-lived, but he’d have the opportunity to make up for it 30 seconds later.

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The Alcoa junior running back raced 40-plus yards into the end zone, but as his teammates rushed him to celebrate the score, he noticed the yellow flag barely visible in the distance 122 feet back. The holding call erased what would have been his first touchdown of the game.

The next play, Tornadoes quarterback Caden Buckles went back to Harris on a swing pass. Harris went right back to the end zone for another celebration, darting 48 yards leaving a trail of Highlander defenders but no penalty flags in his wake.

The score was the first of three touchdowns for Harris, who finished with 92 yards on four carries as Alcoa dismantled Gatlinburg-Pittman, 63-0, in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs on Friday at Goddard Field.

“Man, I was just so tired,” Harris told The Daily Times. “I couldn’t breath. (After the second touchdown) I was just like, man, get me to the sideline because I need some water.”

“(Harris) went back at them,” Rankin added. “He’s a tough kid, he’s a great teammate, and very, very explosive. I thought all of our backs ran very good tonight. I was proud of all of our backs for being explosive. We broke some long plays. We were pretty sharp overall, I thought.”

On the ground, the Tornadoes rushed for 351 yards as Harris, Isaiah Bryant, Itty Salter and D.J. Foster all broke off touchdown runs of 20 yards or more.

“Really, just running the ball (worked best for the offense),” Harris said. “Our line was doing an excellent job of executing everything. Our backs would hit the hole.”

Alcoa (11-1) moved one step closer to the state championship with their fifth straight shutout win, setting an early tone with an Elijah Cannon 2-yard touchdown run to finish off their opening drive.

That score cleared the way for a 56-point first half where Alcoa outgained the Highlanders, 401-14.

After the Harris broke the 48-yard makeup touchdown — and g a Gatlinburg-Pittman punt that gave the Tornadoes a short field early in the second quarter — Cannon scored on a 5-yard run to go up 28-0 and the smelter overturned into a sea of aluminum flashes gracing the end zone.

Alcoa’s special teams also made its own contributions as the Highlanders (7-5) muffed back-to-back kickoffs that were recovered by Brennen Duggan to set up the offense deep in G-P territory.

The mishaps led to 23 and 13-yard touchdowns runs from Bryant and Harris, respectively.

“(Special teams) was good,” Rankin said. “That doesn’t happen much, but it happened twice tonight. That was a little unusual. I thought we were pretty solid in all areas.”

Alcoa held Gatlinburg-Pittman to three first downs and 78 total yards, 77 of them coming on the ground as quarterback Houston Byrd passed for one yard and was intercepted by Bryant in the second quarter.

Pigeon Forge’s 24-0 win over Unicoi County on Friday sets up an all Region 2-3A quarterfinal which the Tornadoes will host Nov. 19 at Goddard Field. The Tigers pulled out of playing Alcoa in the regular season due to COVID, one of three games opponents cancelled on the Tornadoes.

“Our kids are looking forward to playing them,” Rankin said. “We didn’t get to play them, but they run a Wing-T offense and do things a little bit differently. They’ve got a good coach, some good players. It’s a third round playoff game. It’ll be big.”

It will also mark another return to the confines of Bill Bailey Stadium for former Alcoa coach Scott Meadows, who lead Alcoa to the state title in 2000. Now the head coach at Pigeon Forge, Meadows was among the honorees last year during the 20-year anniversary celebration for the fifth of Alcoa’s 19 state football championships.

Follow @ByNoahTaylor on Twitter for more from sports reporter Noah Taylor.

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