By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Five Cherokee Braves were named to the All-Smoky Mountain Conference football team and another four received Honorable Mentions as post-season honors are handed out. Joaquin Layno, Cade Mintz, Masih Catolster, Blake Smith, and Damian Blanton were named All-Conference and Sterling Santa Maria, Rocky Peebles, Isaiah Armachain, and Seth Smith received Honorable Mention nods.
Cherokee finished the season 7-6 overall and 3-3 in the Smoky Mountain Conference where they finished fourth.
Kent Briggs, Braves head coach, commented, “I’m very proud of these young men. They had an exceptional year, and the guys that were named Honorable Mention were worthy of being All-Conference as well. All of those guys had the type of year that should be recognized. I felt like our team was very competitive. I feel very proud of what these guys accomplished, especially our seniors. Over the past three years, we’ve had a bunch of playoff games and won a state championship and have been very competitive.”
Coach Briggs said honors such as these have carry-over value going into future seasons. “When you have players like this who are successful and get recognition, I think it motivates all our players to step up their game and try to reach that level of success. I think it is really good for our program for our players to be recognized because they deserve the recognition, but it also helps with goal-setting for the younger players that are up-and-coming.”
Mintz, junior wide receiver, caught 52 passes for 1,083 yards (20.8 avg) and 9 TDs and ran the ball 49 times for 362 yards (7.4 avg.) and 6 TDs. Smith, senior wide receiver, caught 28 passes for 542 yards (19.4 avg) and 7 TDs. On defense, Mintz had 4 interceptions and Smith had 3.
Blanton and Layno, both seniors, anchored Cherokee’s defense all year long with 98 and 82 tackles respectively. Catolster, a freshman lineman on both offense and defense, added 63 tackles on the season.
1A State Champion Murphy swept the individual awards as long-time coach David Gentry was named SMC Coach of the Year, Micah Nelson was named Back of the Year, and Hunter Shope was named Lineman of the Year.
Other members of the All-Conference team include: Landon White (Andrews), Zack Sheppard (Andrews), Adam Leek (Hayesville), Hunter Shope (Murphy), Brady Satterlind (Murphy), KJ Allen (Murphy), Slade McTaggart (Murphy), Dallas Rayburn (Murphy), Ray Rathburn (Murphy), Chase Roberts (Murphy), Micah Nelson (Murphy), Candler Edwards (Robbinsville), Rylee Anderson (Robbinsville), Landon Orr (Robbinsville), Austin Lovin (Robbinsville), Clayson Lane (Robbinsville), Jase Phillips (Robbinsville), Erik Barnett (Robbinsville), Hooper Thomas (Rosman), Kayne Smith (Robbinsville), Christian Carnathan (Robbinsville), Brennan Chapman (Robbinsville), Marcus Stamey (Robbinsville), Chase Hughes (Swain), Jake Langston (Swain), Bryce Sain (Swain), Noland Brown (Swain), and Ian Brooks (Swain).
Other players received Honorable Mention nods include: Tucker Holloway (Andrews), Hunter Rickett (Andrews), Brawley Stillwell (Andrews), Dwain Cook (Hayesville), Reid Beal (Murphy), Justice Dorsey (Murphy), Peyton McCracken (Murphy), Yousef Mugharbil (Murphy), Devonte Murray (Murphy), Robert Bodine (Murphy), Annie-Kate Dalton (Murphy), Grady Garland (Robbinsville), Aaron Phillips (Robbinsville), Isaac Wilkinson (Robbinsville), AJ Ornelas (Robbinsville), Lex Hooper (Robbinsville), Luke Stewart (Rosman), Nick Millsaps (Swain), Damion Lossiah (Swain), Daniel Ammons (Swain), Charlie Lambert (Swain), and Hunter Burrell (Swain).