CARTERSVILLE — Despite its attempt to keep pressure off of quarterback A.J. Swann with runs or quick pass attempts, Cherokee was held scoreless during the second half, leading to its 24-14 defeat Friday at Cartersville.
Cherokee (2-3) had five possessions during the second half, yet its offense could not rekindle the big play success it had earlier that led to 14 points.
The Warriors started each drive during the second half at or inside their own 20-yard line and finished with just one play in Cartersville territory for the second half.
“We had terrible field position in the second half,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “They turned the field (and) pinned us deep. It’s just tough to move it against a really good football team when you’re starting from (around) the 10-yard line.”
Cartersville (4-0) also pressured Swann throughout, sacking the Maryland commit twice and intercepting him another all in the third quarter. The senior quarterback completed 19 of 35 passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Cartersville made it a two-possession game with under 6 minutes remaining after a 10-yard run by Malachi Jeffries, capping off a seven-play drive that consisted entirely of runs.
Cherokee struggled to run the ball consistently during the first half, with only one attempt going for more than 8yards. The second half saw much of the same, as Cherokee finished with just 39 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
With its defense in command, Cartersville held control with a steady rushing attack. The Purple Hurricanes finished with 213 total rushing yards, led by Amari White's 121 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, as well as Jeffries' 97 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.
It was a struggle-filled start for Cherokee as Cartersville hurried into a 10-point lead just two possessions into the game. The Purple Hurricanes made it look effortless, rushing for gains of 17, 38, 14 and 10 yards on the opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by White.
Cherokee responded to the early deficit with a 14-play touchdown drive led by Swann, who went 6-for-7 on the drive and connected with senior Caleb Richardson for a 25-yard touchdown on third-and-9.
On its next possession, Cherokee looked to its rushing duo of Zi Johnson and Aidan Moore to get the drive going before a 36-yard touchdown pass by Swann gave the Warriors a 14-10 lead with 2:35 remaining in the second quarter.
Cherokee’s lead quickly evaporated, however, as White rushed for a 12-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left in the first half to move ahead 17-14.
With the loss, Cherokee enters Region 5AAAAAAA in unusual territory at 2-3 overall, as the Warriors were a combined 9-1 in non-region play during the previous two regular seasons.
They will begin region play on the road against Woodstock on Oct. 1.
“We have a lot of areas to still improve,” Shaw said. “Hopefully, this break will give us everybody back healthy.”