COOKEVILLE — For the third time in as many seasons, Christ Presbyterian Academy and East Tennessee powerhouse Alcoa have concluded their seasons on the state’s biggest stage.
Unfortunately for CPA, Friday’s Class 3A title game bore little resemblance to last year’s shutout victory over the 14-time champion Tornadoes as the Lions suffered a 20-0 defeat Friday at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
It more resembled the Lions’ 18-point BlueCross Bowl defeat in 2013 than their 7-0 win last season.
“I think we’re a good football team, we just played a better football team and a better coaching staff tonight,” sixth-year CPA coach Ingle Martin said. “We’ll live to see another day.”
It was the ninth state title for Alcoa since 2004 and the 11th in the career of longtime coach Gary Rankin, the state’s all-time wins leader (383). Six of his state titles have come at Alcoa with the other four at Riverdale.
Rankin is tied with Maryville’s George Quarles, whose team plays for the 6A title Saturday, for the most football state titles in Tennessee (11), one ahead of legendary Brentwood Academy coach Carlton Flatt.
The Lions (13-2), who’d won nine consecutive postseason contests, failed to eclipse 100 yards of offense for the first time since their 2013 loss to Alcoa (14-1).
The Tornadoes had 334 yards in the comfortable victory.
CPA’s typically strong running game was virtually non-existent. Seniors Chip Omer, Wallace Barrett, John Orr and Zack Weatherly averaged 0.8 yards per attempt, managing just 21 yards on 25 attempts.
“Their whole team, there’s not a weak spot on it,” Weatherly said. “Their front seven is the real deal — that front four and those linebackers flying around — and also the safeties coming down hard.”
Weatherly, a Class 3A Mr. Football finalist and Chattanooga commitment, did complete 4 of 4 passes for 74 yards. He simply was unable to stay upright long enough to establish any kind of sustained success.
“They have a great coaching staff coaching them, and they have tremendous players,” Martin said. “When you can stop what we’re trying to do and outnumber us on the perimeter, our quarterback is going to have to pull it down and run.”
The Lions didn’t register a first down until the closing minutes of the opening quarter, finally moving the sticks on a 12-yard run by Omer.
Moments later, Weatherly hooked up with Barrett on a 45-yard completion. However, after a sack by Class 3A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year Jonathan Deckers, CPA was whistled for a delay of game penalty, setting kicker Harrison Myers up with a 51-yard field goal attempt
Myers narrowly missed to the left.
On the ensuing possession, the Tornadoes marched 68 yards down to the CPA 11 before settling for a 28-yard field goal from Ben Smith with 4:51 left in the half.
Alcoa stretched its lead to two scores on its opening possession of the second half, claiming a 10-0 advantage on a physical 2-yard touchdown run from junior Malik Salter. The Tornadoes doubled up the Lions’ deficit in the fourth quarter with another Smith field goal followed by a second Salter rushing score.
Salter finished with 23 yards on 10 carries, while Alcoa quarterback Jaylen Myers accounted for 234 yards — 119 of which came on 9-of-15 passing.
“You know I was on the sideline toward the end of the game, and honestly I was content,” said CPA senior Price Perdue, whose helped lead the Lions to a 55-4 record in four seasons. “I felt about all the things Coach Martin has taught us, about how football doesn’t define us, our hearts define us.”
Reach Michael Murphy at 615-259-8262 and on Twitter @Murph_TNsports.