CANTON — Cherokee’s defense scored early and hung on late to secure a 21-7 win over Woodstock on Friday at Tommy Baker Field.
The Warriors (4-4, 2-1 Region 4AAAAAAA) forced four first-half turnovers, including three interceptions they returned for touchdowns.
While their offense never really got going, it was enough for the win.
“Any time you have an opportunity to beat a county opponent and a region opponent, you have to do it,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “Our region is very difficult. Wins are hard to come by, so we’re excited to pick one up going into a bye week. We’ll take it any way we can get it.”
Patrick Dahlen opened the scoring late in the first quarter when he took an interception 15 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Just two plays and 45 seconds of game time later, Cherokee’s Grant Mogelnicki came down with a tipped pass and returned it down the right sideline for a score and a 14-0 lead.
After nearly a quarter of stagnant offenses, Dahlen struck again, returning an interception 20 yards for his second touchdown of the game and third in the last two weeks, giving the Warriors a 21-0 advantage at the half.
“I just want to go after the ball,” Dahlen said. “When I see it in the air, all I think about is going to get it. Once I do, I’m just focused on getting into the end zone.”
After the break, Woodstock (2-5, 0-2) settled in some and got back into the game with a 68-yard touchdown pass from Walker Ormsby to Jabari Overton.
Ormsby played turnover-free in the second half to finish 15-of-29 passing for 209 yards, for a Wolverine offense that only gained 58 yards on the ground.
“We didn’t change much at the break,” Woodstock coach Brent Budde said. “We just executed a little better after halftime. That’s one of the best defenses in the region, if not the state. They just made big plays all night.”
Despite the Wolverines’ offensive improvement in the second half, Cherokee forced two punts and made two of its three fourth-down stops inside the 30-yard line to maintain the lead.
They were stops that were needed, too, as the Warriors continued to struggle to move the ball.
Landon Ergle was 9-of-15 passing for 77 yards, while Mogelnicki gained 36 yards on eight carries to lead a Cherokee offense that had more punts (nine) than first downs (six).
“It was just something on almost every play,” Shaw said. “There was always just one spot where we didn’t execute. I thought we would be able to run better than that, but we protected the ball and did enough.”
Cherokee will have a week off before hosting No. 2 Walton, while Woodstock will look to build off its defensive performance -- which included a blocked punt in the fourth quarter -- when it looks for its first region win next week against Lassiter.
“I was happy with our defense,” Budde said. “They put in a really good week of practice, and it showed. They played well all night.”