FOOTBALL: BRAVES WIN BATTLE OF THE NATIONS
Evans leads Cherokee with three touchdowns
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
It wouldn’t be a Battle of the Nations game if it didn’t come down to the wire. This one was no different as Cherokee (2-1) edged the Choctaw Central Warriors (0-3) by one-point 26-25 to win the annual game (although it really is a battle) at Ray Kinsland Stadium on Friday, Sept. 2.
“We played hard and we fought hard,” said Kent Briggs, Braves head coach. “We really lost our composure several times because of the emotion of the game, and we just have got to learn to be better and be better controlled. Everything that the referees called on us, we probably earned…we can’t win many football games if we’re giving the opponents so many opportunities because of our emotional mistakes.”
He said his team calmed down and got better in the second half. “We found a way to win the football game, and I’m very proud of our men for fighting. We’re proud of them for hanging in there and being tough during tough times. We have to give a lot of credit to that football team. They’re a good football team. They’ve got good players. I thought it was a hard fought battle…it’s a big game, and I’m very proud of our young men to bring the trophy home to where it belongs – in Cherokee.”
Isaiah Evans, Braves sophomore running back, led the way for Cherokee with 19 rushes for 91 yards and three touchdowns. Tye Mintz, junior quarterback, threw for 126 yards and ran for 24 yards and a touchdown. Almost half of Mintz’s passing yards were to Shane Swimmer, junior wide receiver, who had four catches for 61 yards.
Anthony Toineeta led Cherokee defensively with seven tackles followed by Dodge Crowe-Moss, Holden Straughan, Dawson Wilnoty, and Byron Locust with six each. Swimmer had five tackles and an interception in the game. George Swayney and Zak Perez finished the game with four tackles each. Straughan also had an interception.
Cherokee got the ball first in this contest, but were forced to punt after a three-and-out. Choctaw started their first drive at their own 14-yard line at the 9:47 mark of the first quarter. The Warriors put together a 13-play drive that took five minutes off the clock and ended with a 20-yard field goal by Andrew Sockey to make it 3-0 with 4:44 left in the first.
Both teams would punt on their next two possessions.
The Braves started their fourth possession of the game at their own 10-yard line. On the fourth play of the drive, Choctaw’s Jeremiah Robinson intercepted a Mintz pass and ran it back 20 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Graviel Velasco added the extra point, and the Warriors led 10-0 with 6:11 left in the half.
The Braves stormed back though. Following the kickoff, they started in good field position at their own 43-yard line and put together an 8-play drive that culminated in a 4-yard touchdown run by Mintz. The two-point try failed, and Choctaw held a 10-6 lead with 97 seconds left in the second.
Choctaw punted following a three-and-out on their next possession. Cherokee got the ball back with 10 seconds left, but simply ran out the clock and trailed 10-6 at the half.
The Warriors got the ball first to start the second half. After starting at their own 40-yard line, Choctaw moved the ball down the field. On the ninth play of the drive, Choctaw faced a 4th and 23. Zane Lilly threw a pass deep into Cherokee territory that was intercepted by Swimmer at the 2-yard line. Swimmer had a huge return that was brought back due to a block in the back penalty, and the Cherokee set up shop at their own 35-yard line.
The Braves moved the ball quickly down the field garnering three first downs in a row. The drive stalled some, and Cherokee faced a 4th and 10 from the Choctaw 25-yard line. Mintz found Straughan on a 15-yard pass play down to the Warriors 10. On the next play, Evans carried the ball to the one-inch line. Then, on the following play, he carried it in for his first score of the night.
Evans ran for the two-point conversion to give Cherokee a 14-10 lead with 4:36 left in the third.
Choctaw wasted no time in answering.
After starting their next drive in good field position at their own 41-yard line, the Warriors put together a 10-play drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Joshua Jordan. Velasco added the extra point, and the Warriors took the lead again at 17-14 with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Braves started their next drive, their eighth of the game, at their own 42-yard line. Eleven plays later, Evans ran nine yards for his second score of the night. The two-point conversion failed, and Cherokee led 20-17 with 8:42 left in the game.
Cherokee’s defense stepped up on Choctaw’s next possession. Locust had a big sack on second down to bring up a 3rd and 14 on the Choctaw 46-yard line. Toineeta broke up a pass on third down, and Straughan intercepted a Lilly pass on fourth down and returned it to midfield.
Cherokee turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession, and Choctaw took over at their own 19-yard line. On first down, Lilly hit Brison Dixon on a 60-yard pass play. After the catch, Dixon fumbled the ball which was recovered by Swayney who returned it to the Cherokee 30-yard line.
Five plays later, Evans ran 12 yards for his third touchdown of the night. The two-point try failed, and Cherokee led 26-17 with 1:49 left in the game.
But, this is the Battle of the Nations game…it wasn’t over yet.
On the ensuing kickoff, Choctaw’s Sockey returned the ball 60 yards to the Cherokee 14-yard line. An offsides penalty by the Braves took the ball inside the 10-yard line. Cherokee’s defense tightened and made three stops in a row. But, on fourth down, Dakota Kennedy ran it in from one yard out. Kennedy then ran for the two-point conversion to make it 26-25 with just over 20 seconds left in the game.
The Warriors tried an onsides kick that was recovered by the Braves who ran out the clock to take the one-point win and the Battle of the Nations trophy.
To view or purchase photos from this game, visit: https://onefeather.smugmug.com/SPORTS/FOOTBALL/BRAVES-FOOTBALL-2016/Vs-Choctaw-Battle-of-the/
The Braves travel to Cosby, Tenn. on Friday, Sept. 9 to play the 1-1 Eagles.
(Note: Defensive stats were compiled by One Feather staff at the game.)