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Indians face task of tackling Tornadoes

Jeff Birchfield • Sep 21, 2018 at 10:19 AM

KINGSPORT — There is a Tornado warning in effect for the Dobyns-Bennett football team.

The Indians (2-2) travel to Alcoa to take on the three-time defending Class 3A state champion Tornadoes (5-0) on Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The all-time series between the teams is tied at 3.

Though Alcoa has pitched three shutouts early in the season, its most notable win was a 34-28 victory over rival Maryville in which quarterback Walker Russell was 14-of-22 passing for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Russell followed up with a four-touchdown performance last week in a 52-0 drubbing of Pigeon Forge.

While the Tornadoes are known for their ground game, Russell and favorite receiver Connor Canfield give them another dimension.

“He does a good job as a runner and passer,” D-B coach Joey Christian said of Russell. “He’s tough both ways and then he has a good receiver with Canfield, who was able to sneak by Maryville a few times. They do a good job of designing plays to get him the ball and he runs well with it. So it’s pretty deadly.”

With Kareem Rodriquez, Kvaughn Tyson, C.J. Armstrong and J.R. Jones, the Tornadoes are still stacked at running back. They run behind an offensive line that averages nearly 260 pounds.

“They’re just good all around,” Christian said. “It’s kind of their mentality. They want to be physical and run the football. They will play-action off of it when they need to. It’s been a very successful combination they’ve had for many years.”

The same can be said for the Indians, who have seen running back Ian Hicks carry them to wins over Science Hill and Sevier County.

In D-B’s last game, a 55-0 win over the Smoky Bears, quarterback Lendon Redwine also gave his team big numbers in the passing game. He ended with 233 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown connection with tight end Charlie Browder.

Alcoa’s defense usually lines up in a four-man front and Christian believes its line would match up favorably with any team in the state. The Tornadoes have given up 42 points — an average of just 8.2 per game — through five games.

“It’s the best defensive front we’ve seen to date,” Christian said. “Three of their four guys up front started last year. The other kid is a sophomore and he’s just as good as the other three. They’re physically so good and they play so hard, the down-four guys with (Adonis) Salter and (Jakobe) Robinson with how they get off blocks and get to the football.”

D-B has the revenge factor in its favor. Last season in Kingsport, the Tornadoes rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit to beat the Indians 35-31 on a final-minute touchdown. It spoiled D-B’s homecoming.

“We led the whole game last year until the last minute,” Christian said. “A play here, a play there, and there was a controversial call at the end.

“Everybody is excited and I don’t think there is a coach on our staff who has ever been to Alcoa. It should be a good experience for all of us.”

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