CANTON - Sometimes, defense feels better than offense.
Playing on the road Friday night, Cherokee beat Sequoyah 14-0 in the 24th edition of their cross-county rivalry.
Although Sequoyah (0-1) outgained Cherokee in total yards, 205-199, Cherokee (2-0) created four turnovers and, in the process, recorded its first shutout since the final regular-season game of the 2014 season. It was also the Warriors' first shutout in the history of their series with the Chiefs.
“They beat us pretty bad the last couple years, so we came out here with something to prove,” Cherokee senior safety Patrick Dahlen said. “We knew, every time we went out there, we were going to stop them. Even when we were pinned inside our own 5-yard line, we knew we were going to stop them.”
Dahlen finished with two interceptions, his second coming on Sequoyah’s final possession late in the game, when Dahlen intercepted Chiefs quarterback Colin Koprowski on a final fourth-down attempt. Riley Lyons also recorded an interception, and Brandon Byrd recovered a fumble for the Cherokee defense, which held the Sequoyah Wing-T offense in check for the first three quarters.
“It was about midway through the summer when I began to feel like we were going to have a chance defensively,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “We’re not the biggest, but we have a lot of speed, and these are really disciplined kids. We had a shutout going for almost three quarters last week before a couple of late scores, and tonight, we were able to keep that going.”
The first half saw both teams trade punts back-and-forth, with neither side able to move the ball consistently.
Sequoyah missed an early field-goal opportunity in the first quarter, but the scoring chances were limited until Cherokee quarterback A.J. Swann connected with Devin Ellison in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass with a little more than a minute remaining in the second quarter. Cherokee took a 7-0 lead into halftime.
“They’ll be some positives from this game,” Sequoyah coach James Teter said. “And it looks bad, and you watch film, you’ll be able to take some positives. But the ugly probably outweigh the positives right now.”
Led by running back Jaden Mitchell, who finished with 48 rushing yards on 12 carries, Sequoyah more than once had the ball on the Cherokee side of the field, but the Warriors' defense made the plays to stall the Chiefs each and every time.
Shaw said the front seven for Cherokee, led by Braesen Parker, Alonso Upshaw, Ty Swanson and Nathan Muse, played outstanding and pressured Koprowski seemingly all game.
“Unbelievable. That’s our first shutout in five years, and it’s amazing,” Parker said. “Our defense is very well-known, and when we get backed up, we have that mentality to bow our necks and not let anything by us.”
Shaw said he wanted to run the ball better Friday, and Cherokee was able to do that as well. Keith Adams Jr. finished with 99 yards on 17 carries, and his 24-yard touchdown run with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the game gave Cherokee the breathing room it needed.
“I felt like we ran the ball a lot better this week compared to last week,” Adams said. “We made some adjustments and the holes seemed a lot bigger, but our defense is great. I love every one of those guys, and they carried us tonight.”