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Cherokee’s Patrick Dahlen leaps for an interception in last year’s game against North Forsyth. The Air Force commit is back for the Warriors as they look to build off last year’s run to the playoffs.

Cherokee defeated North Forsyth on the road to start last season, marking the Warriors' third win in a row over Raiders, who have not defeated Cherokee since 2013.

This year, both teams will be breaking in new starters on the offensive side of the ball, and whichever offense can limit turnovers will likely come away with victory.

Cherokee will begin the season with a new look backfield in starting quarterback A.J. Swann and running back Keith Adams Jr., both sophomores.

Swann’s main target should be senior wide receiver Devin Ellison, who finished last season as Cherokee County’s leading receiver with 59 receptions and 612 yards, while Brady Bocherer, Landon Ergle and Brandon Drummer should also provide Swann with viable pass-catching options. Wide receiver and kick returner Adarruis Harshaw, one of the fastest players in the county according to Cherokee head coach Josh Shaw, could also prove to be a key figure in this early-season matchup.

On defense, Cherokee returns several key starters.

Defensive back Patrick Dahlen, an Air Force commit who led the county in interceptions last season with five, should lead the unit along with linebacker Brandon Byrd, who led the county in tackles with 135. Defensive lineman T.J. Parks also returns following a junior season in wcih he recorded 63 tackles and four sacks.

Cherokee will have to replace McKinley Hunter, who led the county in sacks last season, and the Warriors will look to find new players to pressure the quarterback this season.

The strength for North Forsyth will be its defense, where the Raiders return 12 players who started at least one game last season.

Senior linebacker Jack Tucker, who led the team in tackles last season, should anchor that side of the ball. Sam Thompkins and Max Bryant both return along the defensive line and could pose problems for a Cherokee offensive line that struggled at times in the preseason scrimmage against Creekview. An experienced secondary will also be an early-season test for Cherokee’s first-year starting quarterback.

North Forsyth will return only one starter on offense in wide receiver and Duke commit Nicky Dalmolin. Brady Meitz will take over at quarterback for the Raiders, lining up behind an inexperienced offensive line.

The Cherokee offensive line struggled at times against Creekview in last week’s scrimmage. With another week of preparation, expect the Warriors to come out firing at home Friday night.

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