Patrick Dahlen was a difference-maker last year on the back end of Cherokee’s defense.
The safety, who helped lead the Warriors back to the postseason just one year after going 0-10, is looking to keep the improvement coming in his senior year.
“We want to have a good year like last year,” said Dahlen, a member of the Cherokee Tribune Super Six. “We know we lost a lot of seniors. We came together as a team, so we have to keep that going and build on it.”
If Dahlen can match his production from last season, he can almost single-handedly keep Cherokee in games.
In addition to his 79 tackles, Dahlen also tied for the county lead with five interceptions, while breaking up seven passes. He totaled 145 yards on those takeaways and found the end zone three times thanks to the mentality he brings to every snap.
“The big hits are nice, but the interceptions are my favorite,” Dahlen said. “I like getting the ball and going and scoring. When the ball is in the air, all I know is that it’s my ball. When the ball is in the air, I’m just going to get it every time.”
At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Dahlen is bigger than most defensive backs. He used to use his length to play offense, but since switching to safety as a sophomore, he has found his size just as useful on the defensive side.
“I think it’s a big advantage,” Dahlen said. “I think my size does have a lot when I’m sitting back in the middle of the field trying to read the quarterback. I have more weight and more mass. Just being longer helps with everything.”
Besides the physical traits he brings to the field, Dahlen will also need to take on more leadership responsibilities this season. The Warriors lost key contributors at all three levels of the defense, but Dahlen is ready to help raise the performance of the entire unit.
“I definitely feel responsible for it,” he said. “I call a lot of shots out there on the field, so I want to be as much of a leader as possible. We have a lot of young guys stepping up we didn’t have last year.”
Dahlen, with a 4.0 grade-point average, is well suited for that role, too. He has scholarship offers from Army, Air Force, The Citadel, Jacksonville State, South Alabama and Tusculum.
When Dahlen makes his college decision, it will come down to more than just football.
“I don’t have a front-runner right now,” he said. “My dad always told me, it’s not a four-year decision. It’s a 40-year decision. Football isn’t always going to be there. You need to have something to fall back on, but the academics and the discipline will set you up for life.”