Game: Cherokee (7-1, 2-1) at Alpharetta (2-3, 1-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Alpharetta 21, Cherokee 18 (Nov. 2014)
All-time series: Alpharetta leads 1-0
Prediction: Cherokee 27, Alpharetta 20
Cherokee kept itself in contention for a region championship last week and this week travel to face one of the more talented teams in Region 5AAAAAAA.
Cherokee (7-1, 2-1) will visit Alpharetta (2-3, 1-1) this Friday and will look to keep pace with Roswell and Milton — both with undefeated 2-0 region records — in the race for the No. 1 playoff seed. The Warriors defeated Etowah 35-6 last Friday and were dominant on both sides of the ball. The win guaranteed Cherokee a third-straight state playoff appearance, an accomplishment achieved only once before in program history (2002-04).
“Obviously, it’s a tremendous accomplishment, and it’s one of our goals, but that one has kind of slid over my head this week because we feel like we have bigger goals ahead of us this year,” Shaw said. “Our expectation was to make the playoffs but I also don’t want to take anything away because it’s very difficult to make the playoffs in (Class AAAAAAA).”
Quarterback A.J. Swann finished with 191 passing yards and two touchdowns while Keith Adams Jr. ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns. The Warriors were without wide receiver Adarrius Harshaw but senior Brady Bocherer stepped up with career highs in receptions (8) and receiving yards (119). Shaw said Harshaw will be back to full availability this week.
The defense has recorded at least one interception in every game this season. Austin Trimble and Riley Lyons have been arguably the best cornerback duo in Cherokee County (five combined interceptions) and Lyons may see additional action moving forward on offense. He had one catch for 35 yards last week.
“I think Riley is certainly the unsung hero of this football team,” Shaw said. “It’s not often you have a 6’3” corner who has good enough hips to play corner and he probably has the best hands on the team. We have a lot of confidence in both of our corners.”
Despite its sub-.500 record, Alpharetta has played well against several of the state’s best teams. The Raiders played both North Cobb and Collins Hill to one-score defeats and trailed Milton 21-20 at halftime before being outscored by 14 in the second half.
Alpharetta coach Jason Kervin is in his first year with the Raiders after 12 years at Hoover (AL), one of the best programs in the country. The Raiders’ defensive coordinator, John Thompson, has 31 years of experience as a Division I coach with stints as the defensive coordinator for Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
“They’re going to be extremely well-coached and they’re a team that just doesn’t make very many mistakes,” Shaw said. “We’re going to have to match that and keep our mistakes to a minimum.”
The Raiders have Division I talent with safety Jaden Slocum (Stanford) and Dylan Merrell (Duke) and linebacker Vito Perri has drawn college attention from Army, Yale and Jacksonville State among others.
Offensively, Merrell is will be used in the running game and possesses breakaway speed from that position. Tylan Johnson serves as the power back and is capable of wearing down a defense.
Alpharetta’s passing game will test the Cherokee defense as well. Quarterback Ben Gutherie is a capable passer and runner of the football.