Blackman faced off with state power Alcoa to open the 2019 season at The Inferno Saturday night, as the Tornados edged the Blaze 23-14.
“They are a great team and we want competition,” Blackman senior Conner Murphy said. “We aren’t going to shy away from anybody. We had a couple of things not go our way and we let it change the game.”
The game marked the return of famed coach Gary Rankin to Murfreesboro and the first time facing his former player, Blackman coach Kit Hartsfield.
“It was fun (playing against Rankin),” Hartsfield said. “He’s a great coach, he is the best there ever has been and it was an honor to be on the opposite sideline from him.”
Defense reigned supreme, especially to start the game. Neither team did much in terms of moving the ball until midway through the second when Blackman put together back-to-back scoring drives to take a 14-3 lead with 30 seconds left in the half, although Alcoa answered with a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to cut the deficit to 14-9.
The Blaze touchdowns came from Antonio Malone and Keionte Newson on runs of 63 and 1 yard, respectively.
At that point, Malone had the bulk of the offense with 123 yards on eight carries, but had to leave the game. This seemed to have taken the wind from Blackman’s offensive attack, as the rest of the team managed just 94 yards of offense and the team spent the second half in its own territory.
“No doubt it was a factor,” Hartsfield said. “It’s unfortunate because he (Malone) was just getting rumbling and doing a good job getting downhill. He got over-heated and the medical staff had to pull him.”
The passing game was non-existent for the Blaze, as Drew Beam had just two completions with three interceptions.
The Blaze defense was led by Murphy and his 14 tackles, five of which were for loss and three sacks.
“I like playing fast,” Murphy said. “If I play fast then they can’t touch me and if they don’t touch me I can make plays.”
The team yielded less than 300 yards to a potent Tornado offense, including only 63 on the ground, but two short field possessions for Alcoa led to touchdowns in the second half to give Alcoa the 9-point advantage.
“Our defense played great,” Murphy said. “We had one special teams play and a few deep balls that hurt us.”
The Blaze never recovered from the loss of Malone and the kick return touchdown before halftime.
Blackman’s life does not get any easier next week, as they usher out this top ranked opponent the welcome the top ranked 6-A team Ravenwood to The Inferno on Friday.