Two undefeated teams will square off Friday night at Tommy Baker Field, with both Cherokee and Cartersville coming in off shutout victories, and both possessing explosive playmakers on offense.
Cherokee (4-0) beat Kennesaw Mountain 38-0 on Saturday, giving the Warriors their second shutout of the season and the third game in a row in which the Warriors’ defense did not allow the opposing offense to score. The win also allowed Cherokee to continue its best start since 2007.
Through four games, the Cherokee defense is averaging 3.5 turnovers per game, five three-and-outs per game and surrendering 3.5 points per game.
“In the eight years I've been here, we've had one shutout before this year,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “They’ve got a mentality this year that we haven't had for a while as far as getting takeaways. It’s become personal with these kids now as far as not allowing teams to score, and I hope it continues.”
Cherokee features the county's top three tacklers in Braeson Parker, Brandon Byrd and Patrick Dahlen. Dahlen also leads the county in interceptions with three and will lead a defense that will surely be tested against Class AAAA No. 1 Cartersville (3-0), a team with a 51-game regular-season winning streak.
Led by quarterback Tee Webb, a Louisville commit, the Purple Hurricanes are averaging 37 points per game and feature five different players who have scored touchdowns so far this season.
Cherokee’s running game continues to show improvement, as sophomore Keith Adams Jr. totaled 155 yards and two touchdowns against Kennesaw Mountain. Adams leads the county with 366 rushing yards, while fellow sophomore A.J. Swann is second in the county with 750 passing yards and third with six passing touchdowns.
Shaw said last week’s game was the best the Cherokee offensive line had played all season, and the unit will have to do the same this week against an athletic Cartersville team.
“Their front seven on defense are really good,” Shaw said. “It’ll be the best defense we’ve seen to this point.”
With Cartersville's campus less than 25 miles away from Canton, Cherokee expects the Purple Hurricanes to bring plenty of fans. Cherokee went to social media to encourage fans to purchase tickets online this week to avoid waiting in lines.
Even though the Warriors usually do not have trouble filling the stands, Shaw expects this week to be special.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for our program,” he said. “It’s not often we get to play a team of this magnitude, and to have the game at home, our kids and fans are excited. I think it'll be an electric atmosphere.”