Cherokee already knows a bit about itself, while Sequoyah will hope to find out exactly where it stands when it begins its new season Friday at Skip Pope Stadium.
Cherokee beat North Forsyth 29-14 last week to open its season, but for a team with a number of explosive pieces on offense, it was the defense that seemed most ready to begin the season.
“We played very well defensively against a really good football team,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “We created some turnovers, played with a lot of mental and physical toughness. We matched (North Forsyth's) physicality, which is what I like to see.”
Cherokee was able to use its explosive offensive weapons, with sophomore quarterback A.J. Swann going 14-for-29 for 279 passing yards with three touchdowns. Long touchdowns by Landon Ergle and Adarrius Harshaw showed the big-play ability of the Warriors’ offense, but Cherokee struggled to find a consistent rushing attack, finishing with 101 yards on 19 carries.
Harshaw’s 76-yard touchdown run accounted for the majority of those yards, and Shaw said he would like to be able to run the ball more effectively this week. Shaw expected to make a few adjustments to help bolster the offensive line.
“We’re going to switch around some personnel,” he said. “Competition makes everyone better, and we’re gonna see if we can’t run the ball a little better.”
Sequoyah coach James Teter said the biggest difference between last year’s state quarterfinal team and this year's squad will be the experience level.
“We’re still looking for our identity a little bit right now,” Teter said. “We’re still rotating guys at certain positions and, for a lot of these guys, they’ve never played four quarters of a varsity game. What are they going to do if someone comes up and hits them in the mouth? We’re going to find out. I think, once we get that first quarter over, we’ll be fine.”
Sequoyah will begin this season with senior quarterback Colin Koprowski running Teter’s Wing-T offense.
Regardless of who is at quarterback, Shaw said Teter’s offense will test any defense. Shaw also said that despite it not being a region matchup, the early-season rivalry game always produces an exciting atmosphere.
“It’s the second-longest rivalry in the county, and a lot of the players grow up together,” Shaw said. “Any time you have a chance to play a county game, it's exciting for the players. It’ll be important for us to get off to a fast start, because coach Teter is one of the best there is. It’s a change of pace playing their Wing-T, so we’re going to have to be disciplined defensively.”