One week after shutting down Sequoyah’s Wing-T offense and recording its first shutout since 2014, Cherokee will face another similar attack from North Hall on Friday.
The defense has led this way for the Warriors (2-0) so far this season, forcing seven turnovers and recording a safety in two games played. Safety Patrick Dahlen intercepted two passes last week, giving him three on the season, and the senior leads the county with 26 tackles.
Even with the turnovers, it was the play of the Cherokee front seven which allowed the Warriors to hold Sequoyah to less than 100 rushing yards.
While North Hall (2-0) runs a similar style offense to that of Sequoyah, Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said there are a few differences.
“Obviously, we were ecstatic with how we played defensively against Seqoyah,” Shaw said. “We gave up three long touchdowns last year to North Hall on three big plays, and they run their offense a little different than Sequoyah. Their splits are a little bigger and they run trap a little more, but I know they’ll be really well coached because coach (David) Bishop does a great job over there.”
The North Hall offense will feature multiple running backs, but the group will be led by J.T. Fair, who tallied 205 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries last week in a 16-0 win over Jackson County. Along with Cody Smith and Jacob Dickey, the Trojans have averaged over 300 yards rushing per game this year.
First-year starting quarterback Trey Sanders has yet to be fully tested, going 4-of-9 through the air for 141 yards and two touchdowns in two games.
Defensively, North Hall runs a 4-2-5 and has allowed a total of 14 points. Similar to Dahlen, senior safety Luke Volle is a ball-hawking defender who will lead the Trojans’ defense.
The Cherokee offense did not display the big-play ability last week, but Shaw said he was pleased with the progress nonetheless.
“Against North Forsyth in Week 1, all of our touchdowns came on big plays,” Shaw said. “Against Sequoyah, we were able to score on a couple seven- and eight-play drives. We’ll have to do more of that if we want to be successful in region play.”
Cherokee’s running game began to click in the second half of last week’s win. After finishing with 30 yards on 15 carries in Week 1, sophomore running back Keith Adams Jr. finished with 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against Sequoyah.
Sophomore quarterback A.J. Swann has completed 29 of 52 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns so far, and he should continue to grow along with Cherokee’s young core on offense. Senior wide receivers Devin Ellison (9 receptions, 74 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Landon Ergle (5 rec., 108 yds., 1 TD) should continue to be reliable receivers for Swann, along with sophomore speedster Adarrius Harshaw (7 rec., 80 yds.).
“We felt like we left some points on the board in both games actually,” Shaw said. “We’ve got some young kids on that side of the ball and I think we’ll continue to get better each week.”