On Friday night in Canton, the longest-running rivalry in Cherokee County will resume with both teams looking to get off to a fast start in Region 4AAAAAAA.

Since their first meeting in 1978, Cherokee and Etowah have played against each other more than any other opponent. A victory for Cherokee (4-1) would tie the series 18-18, but getting off to a 1-0 start in the region is the primary concern for Cherokee head coach Josh Shaw.

“This one is extremely important because no one else in the region is playing this week and if we beat them we’ll get a leg up on the rest of the region,” Shaw said. “The years that we’ve won this game we’ve made the playoffs and the years we’ve lost this game we haven’t.”

Both teams will be coming off byes last week and the extra rest should have each side as healthy as possible to begin the second half of the schedule. After starting the season 4-0 for the first time since 2007, Cherokee fell 28-7 to Class AAAA No.1 Cartersville two weeks ago. The Warriors’ defense has led the way this season, allowing a county-low 9.8 points per game, but Shaw said Etowah’s offense gives Cherokee plenty to prepare for.

“They’ve got two good tailbacks which is something they’ve always had, along with the leading wide receiver in the county (Jackson Manns) and the leading quarterback (Dalton Miller),” Shaw said. “We will definitely be tested on defense.”

Etowah (2-3) fell 27-24 in overtime in its game two weeks ago at Class AAAAAAA No.6 Hillgrove. Two of the Eagles’ three losses this season have come by a combined four points, and Etowah head coach Dave Svehla said there are still controllables he’d like his team to improve.

“There are so many things that we could have done to change the record in the first five games,” Svehla said. “At the end of the day we have to do a better job of taking care of the football. If we turn it over on Friday it’s gonna be tough for us.”

Etowah’s offense has averaged 29.4 points per game this season and has shown the ability to both run and pass with efficiency. Dalton Miller leads Cherokee County with 1,263 passing yards and nine passing touchdowns while Jackson Manns leads the county with 514 receiving yards. The backfield of Nick Maddox, Klivert Many and Remington Adams has combined for 612 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

The face-off between Etowah’s offense and Cherokee’s defense will highlight this matchup, but it may be either Cherokee’s offense or Etowah’s defense which decides the game. Cherokee sophomore running back Keith Adams Jr. is second in the county with 468 rushing yards and will likely meet Etowah’s linebackers Austin Skinner and Ethan Ritchie in the hole on a handful of running plays. Skinner and Ritchie are both in the top-5 of tacklers in the county.

The road team has won the last four games in this series and Svehla said he expects a good crowd at Tommy Baker Field this Friday.

“The Cherokee game is always big,” Svehla said. “It’s been a back and forth series since Josh (Shaw) and I have been at our schools. I enjoy playing up at their field, it’s always a good environment, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun week with a really good crowd.”

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