Cartersville vs. Cherokee

Cartersville vs. Cherokee

The Canes beat the Warriors in their first match of the regular season.

The Hurricane’s regular season began at Weinman Stadium, where the Canes faced off against Cherokee on Friday, August 18th. Cartersville’s 27-14 win may raise eyebrows when considering the ‘blowout’ predictions made earlier in the week. However, the score alone does not speak to the Canes’ superior defense, or the inability of Cherokee to use all the time they had with the ball. 

The Cherokee Warriors opened on the offense, receiving Canes’ Kicker Ryan Johnson’s punt on the 6-yard line. With the first tackle of the season, Landon Heath put an early end to Kaden Jameson’s rush on the 18-yard line. From here, Cherokee made few gains, as senior Hurricane Connor Brasfield put up a hardy defense. The Warriors QB Tanner Savasir broke this hold with a 20-yard pass to the 40-yard line. However, the momentum doesn’t carry, and the few yards gained in the ensuing running plays are lost with a 5-yard penalty on Cherokee with the clock reading 8:44. 

Seeking to move past the Hurricane’s rapidly adapting defense, Savasir moved for a pass, but Hurricane Khristian Lando intercepted and charged forward, hell bent on the endzone. Finally taken down at the 37-yard line, Lando took the ball again on the Canes’ first offensive play of the year. However, the Warriors defense held up. At least until QB Nate Russell made a 38-yard pass to senior Kendrick Price and the Canes secured their first touchdown of the season.  

Cherokee’s grind began again, with their offense moving in 5 and 6-yard increments. Notably, the Warriors overthrew twice, and only moved to the 20-yard line after being given a fresh set of downs after a penalty on the Canes for pass interference. After losing a 15-yard throw, Savasir was finally able to connect to WR Gracen Sexton, tying the score at 7-7, with 2:20 on the clock. 

With ownership returned to the Hurricanes, the Warrior’s defense tried to stave off the rabids-in-purple, but QB Russell proved his ability to make the most out of every play, and consistently ran for yardage. Despite the Canes’ agility, the clock ran down, and the 1st quarter ended tied. 

The 2nd quarter began with confusion, as two plays in Price barely missed a pass and the Cartersville celebratory airhorns blew early. Less than a minute in, Cartersville went for a 3-point conversion, but Johnson was blocked and forced down. Cherokee likewise faced a hefty defense, and, despite trying to run and pass the ball, faced the 4th down and the ball went to the Canes. 

While both defenses forced the other to grind, the Cartersville offense proved ever more agile. In spite of starting slow, the Canes quickly pick up after three dead-end plays and reset their downs. From there, charges from Jamauri Brice, Houston, and Lando moved the ball further up field, with Taylor Wilson moving fast enough on the next play to reset their downs again. At the rate of this onslaught, Cherokee called a timeout. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Canes lost little momentum in the interim and Lando soon received and rolled for a touchdown. With the clock at 4:38, the scoreboard read 14 – 7. 

Cartersville’s defense continued the momentum, blocking another Cherokee play before Andrew Shrewsbury intercepted on the 48-yard line, and swung around to make it to the 15 line. Insanity broke out as a penalty was called and argued over extensively. A player lay injured, and Coach Foster of the Canes paced as even the press box grew confused. Eventually, the Canes were given a targeting penalty and pushed back to the 33-yard line. Cartersville proved capable of taking regulatory punches and Price regained 12 of the lost 15-yards. The yard-by-yard grind returned, as Cartersville stayed just ahead of 4 downs until Russell connected to an unguarded Houston, who makes a touchdown. The field goal was missed, and half-time began. 

The attitude on the Cartersville side was comfortable at this point. A clear pattern had developed of both teams grinding the other to the 3rd or 4th down, before a connection was made, usually up the sides. But the Canes had shown to do this more often, further along the field and most importantly, to utilize it towards touchdowns. 

Cartersville picks up the 2nd half from the 20 yard-line and took their time before the snap—a trend that continues throughout this half. After failing to gain any yardage, Russell chose to run with precision rarely seen in such a spontaneous move. After flanking to his left, Russell out slid two Warriors, choosing to end the run on his terms. The Warriors he left behind took their time in getting back up, with one limping off the field. Nate, however, went back to business. 

After that 15-yard gain, Cartersville again made it to 1st down. By now, Cherokee must have felt immense pressure, as on the next play they kept Russell from making any easy passes. Unfortunately for the Warriors, this means he went long and connected with Cayden Aleman, who received 42-yards away near the 20, and charged into the endzone, bringing the score to 27-7.  

Cherokee’s offense proved sluggish compared to Cartersville, but after a mystery penalty on the Canes, the Warriors began to gain yards. However, this advance wore down the Cherokees, as their play clock ran down. On the next play, Savasir is flushed, and taking a page from Russell, deftly charged and rolled for 5 yards. But in the chaos of the Cherokee line collapsing, a referee was utterly laid out. Laid out so hard in fact, he was given a concussion test on field. Judging by the strange penalties called earlier in the game, this wasn’t his first time getting slammed headfirst.  

After the divine punishment proved survivable, Cherokee returned to their slow grind. Judging by the time they took between plays, one would assume they calculated weach snap, but the Warriors hardly made 1st down before facing an incomplete pass and a penalty for holding. At this point of the game Cartersville proved far too fit for the rapidly tiring Savasir, who was clotheslined by Malachi Toliver, the 6’6” 300lb UGA Commit from Cartersville. Not a sweat was broken. With 3 & 30, the Warriors let the ball turnover after a kick. 

The Canes’ possession began in earnest, with Andrew Purdy replacing Russell on the field. Immediately, the Canes moved the ball from the 30 to the 30. Another, barely out of bounds pass was made to the endzone, which prompted a penalty for interference on…Cartersville. The Canes tried to make up for this, pushing up to 1st down, but another penalty was tossed onto Cartersville, and they were pushed a whopping 30 yards back. Confusion ensued as the Refs moved the Canes back and forth, with the scoreboard going from 4 & 20, to 4 & 7, to finally resting on 4 & 12 after the Warriors declined the penalty. Possession soon went back to Cherokee.  

The slog resumed and Cherokee was unable to exploit 1st down yardage. On the 4th down, Cherokee called a timeout, which proved useless, as Savasir threw long for an incomplete pass. A penalty on Cartersville prompted Coach Foster to take to the field as the best coaches do. Thankfully for him, Cherokee was unable to utilize the penalty, and after poor yardage gain, they went for a field goal.  

More excitement, as the field goal was missed, a penalty thrown, and scuffle broke out on the field. Though the players quickly pulled apart their respective teammates, tension brewed as a minor standoff occurred. Professionally, both teams moved back, and the referees overlooked the event. Reportedly, a Warrior had used a racial epithet after tackling a Hurricane, and almost learned what it’s like to have your helmet ripped off nonconsensually. 

With nothing gained for the Warriors, Cartersville takes the ball. Slow play continued and eventually Cartersville gave possession back. 

The Warriors appeared to find some energy, as they gained yardage quickly. An incomplete pass and another out of bounds almost disproved their 2nd wind, until Savasir was flushed, and made for the endzone, giving Cherokee another 6-then-7 points. 

With the clock running freely in the 4th quarter, Cartersville decides to take their offense easy. Quick exploits on the part of Lando and Houston gave Cartersville enough yardage to maintain possession. With the clock at 1:33, Cherokee called a timeout. Victory was practically impossible for the Warriors at this point, so avoiding humiliation was likely the topic of the huddle. Fortunately for the boys in white, the Hurricanes let them off easy after securing another 1st down, and the clock ran down. 

By the end, Cartersville seemed almost casual in their performance, having ridden Cherokee down. However, one hopes such a bláze attitude won’t cause Cartersville to spoil a lead in the future, and potentially prevent them from a Championship appearance. 

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