By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Cherokee Braves (3-1) had more than five times the offensive output of Rosman (487 yards to 97) as they went on to a big win in their Smoky Mountain Conference opener. Cherokee won 43-6 over the Tigers in the game played on the evening of Friday, Sept. 8 at Ray Kinsland Stadium.
Cherokee played well on both sides of the ball – piling up offensive yards and being stingy on defense. The Braves had 22 first downs to Rosman’s 3.
Cherokee’s defense held Rosman to under 100 total yards including 0 yards passing.
Full Braves defensive stats include: Luke Smith, 5 assists, 1 pass break-up, 1 sack; Jonathan Saylor, 1 fumble recovery; Josiah Teesateskie, 3 assists, 2 solo; Tayvin Bark, 6 assists, 1 fumble recovery; Michel Gayosso, 2 assists, 1 solo, 1 pass break-up; Luke Climbingbear, 10 assists, 4 solo; J’Ron Lineberry, 1 assist, 2 solo, 1 sack; Mato Grant, 6 assists, 1 solo; Chaske Raines, 2 assists, 1 solo; Phillips, 1 assist; Chantin Tramper, 1 assist; Talan Crowe, 2 assists; and Emery Driver, 6 assists, 1 solo.
Grant, Braves senior running back, had a stellar night with 9 rushes for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he caught 4 passes for 51 yards and 1 touchdown. Mike Driver, Braves senior quarterback, ran 12 times for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he completed 3 of 7 passes for 42 yards and 1 interception.
In addition to Grant’s receptions, the Braves’ receiving corps was varied on the night including: Jonathon Saylor and Elijah Lineberry who both had 3 receptions for 41 yards and Luke Smith who had 2 catches for 39 yards.
Cherokee started fast in this game. The Braves started their first possession in good field position at their own 44-yard line and drove down the field in a 10-play drive that culminated in a 1-yard quarterback sneak touchdown by Driver. Nathaniel Littlejohn added the point-after kick, and Cherokee led 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Rosman was held to a three-and-out and forced to punt, the first of 7 on the night, during their first possession. They were able to put Cherokee back a little bit more on this kick with the Braves starting on their own 19-yard line. And then…Driver took off on an 81-yard touchdown run on first down. Littlejohn added the point-after kick again, and Cherokee led 14-0 with 4:32 left in the first.
The Tigers were held to another three-and-out and punted. Cherokee took over on its own 36-yard line and put together another 10-play drive. This one culminated in a rare field goal for the Braves as Littlejohn hit one from 25 yards to make it 17-0 with 9:56 left in the half.
Cherokee’s stiff defense held Rosman to another three-and-out and punt on their next possession. Following a bad punt, the Braves took over in great field position at the Rosman 27-yard line. Six plays later, Driver would connect with Grant on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Littlejohn added the point-after kick, and Cherokee led 24-0 which is how the half would end.
The Tigers got the ball first in the second half and had the same result – three-and-out and punt. Cherokee started their first possession of the third quarter on their 27-yard line. In what seemed to be a pattern, the Braves’ drive was 10 plays and culminated in a 19-yard touchdown run by Grant. The point-after kick failed, and Cherokee led 30-0 with 4:30 left in the third.
Rosman was able to put together a drive on their next possession, but it stalled and they had to punt. Cherokee started on their own 17-yard line. On the first play, Grant ran right up the gut of the Tigers defense 83 yards for a score. The point-after failed, the Braves led 36-0 with 11:37 left in the game.
Rosman had a four-and-out on their next possession turning the ball over on downs at their own 30-yard line. Six plays later, J’Ron Lineberry ran 2 yards for a touchdown. Littlejohn added the point-after kick, and Cherokee extended its lead to 43-0.
At this point, the NCHSAA mercy rule kicked in and the clock ran continuously for the remainder of the game.
Following the kickoff, Rosman took over on its own 36-yard line. Corey Rackley made sure the Tigers weren’t shut out. He ran around the left end, found a hole, and darted 64 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed and Cherokee led 43-6 which is how the game would end.
Cherokee heads to Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C. on Friday, Sept. 15. The Braves then have a bye week before hosting Robbinsville at Ray Kinsland Stadium on Friday, Sept. 29.