FOOTBALL: Braves drop season-opener at Smoky Mtn.

by Aug 22, 2021SPORTS di-ne-lv-di-yi




One Feather Staff


SYLVA – On an absolutely beautiful night for football, complete with an amazing sunset, Cherokee got its 2021 campaign started with a visit to Smoky Mountain.  The Mustangs (1-0), behind a three touchdown night for Isaiah McNeely, took the win 41-13 over the Braves (0-1).

Don Bradley (#2), Braves senior quarterback, prepares to throw a pass during the first quarter of Cherokee’s season-opening game at Smoky Mountain on the evening of Friday, Aug. 20. On the night, Bradley was 3 of 6 for 53 pards passing and ran the ball 17 times for 113 yards and 2 TDs. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photo)

Statistically, the game was much closer than the scoreboard showed with Smoky Mtn. having 355 yards (6.6 yards per play) of total offense to Cherokee’s 258 (6.1 ypp).  The Braves gained more on the ground (205 yards) than the Mustangs (162), but Smoky Mtn. did have a nice passing game with 193 total yards in the air to Cherokee’s 53.  Both teams had two turnovers, the time of possession narrowly favored the Mustangs at 26:27 to 21:19 for the Braves.

Cherokee was led by Don Bradley, senior quarterback, who was 3 of 6 for 53 pards passing and ran the ball 17 times for 113 yards and 2 TDs.  Malakai Fourkiller-Raby, also a senior, rushed 9 times for 56 yards.  McNeely led the Mustangs with 23 rushes for 160 yards and 3 TDs.  Jed West, Smoky Mtn. quarterback, went 12 of 18 for 193 yards and 1 TD.

McNeely got things going in the game with a 2-yard touchdown run at 3:13 in the first.  Zeke Sink, who went 5 of 6 on the night for extra point kicks, added the point-after and Smoky Mtn. led 7-0 at the end of the first.

To view or purchase photos from this game, visit: at Smoky Mountain, August 20 – Cherokee One Feather (

Early in the second quarter, Bradley ran 17 yards for Cherokee’s first score.  Mato Grant added the point after to tie the game at 7-7 at the 11:52 mark.  The Mustangs would score twice more in the second on a 2-yard run by McNeely and a 39-yard touchdown pass from West to Darien Bird to give Smoky Mtn. a 21-7 halftime lead.

The third quarter was just like the second with two scores by the Mustangs and one by Cherokee.  Smoky Mtn. scored on a 10-yard McNeely run and a West 4-yard run, and the Braves scored on a 13-yard run by Bradley.  Cherokee went for two which was no good, and Smoky Mtn. led 34-13 at the end of the third.

Smoky Mountain’s Jesse Jones scored the last of the game on a 1-yard run with 3:14 left to give them a 41-13 lead which is how the game would end.

Defensively, the Braves were led by Elijah Watty, senior outside linebacker, who had 12 total tackles (2 solo, 10 assist) and 1 sack.  Cameron Lane-Sampson, senior outside linebacker, had 8 total tackles (3 solo, 5 assist) and a fumble recovery.  Luke Climbingbear, sophomore, had 8 tackles (1 solo, 7 assist), and Kaden Trantham, junior, had 6 tackles on the night (2 solo, 4 assist).  Michael Driver, sophomore, had an interception as well.

The Braves open their home stands on Friday, Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. as they host Andrews (1-0) who is coming off a season opening win (36-11) over the Hickory Hawks.  It is Gold Night at Ray Kinsland Stadium so be sure to wear your gold Cherokee attire.