After watching Etowah dominate the Lineman Challenge over the past three years, Cherokee took home the title for the first time after the sixth annual event at Woodstock’s Riverside Athletic Complex.
Cherokee defensive line coach Jeff Zmistowski was excited to see the way his players rebounded after a sub-par performance last year.
“The kids who came back were really disappointed with how things went last year,” Zmistowski said. “They came in with a different attitude and better focus. They wanted to compete and I’m proud of them for that. I’m happy for them. It’s a nice high-five moment for them over the summer.”
Hosted by the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency, the Lineman Challenge is an opportunity for schools from across the state to send players to compete in various feats of strength, speed and agility.
Five-man teams are pitted against one another in seven events — bench-press, farmer’s run relay, five-man sled drive, sled pull, tractor tire flip, one-man sled push and pro agility run. A team builds points based on how it ranks in each event.
Teams also received a pep talk from Bob Whitfield, the former All-Pro offensive lineman of the Atlanta Falcons.
Cherokee, Etowah, Sequoyah and Woodstock all fielded teams, as did King’s Academy, a Woodstock-based group of home-schooled players. Most schools entered more than one five-man team, including Cherokee, which had four groups participating.
A total of 13 teams took part in the event.
The Warriors’ winning team, which consisted of rising seniors Michael Bean, Jamori Fox, Travis Head and Jordan Townsend and rising junior Dwayne Tiller, totaled 81 points. Sequoyah and Etowah tied for second with 73 points.
Bean and Tiller are set to play defensive line and linebacker for the Warriors this fall. Fox is a defensive tackle, while Head and Townsend play on the offensive side of the ball at tackle and center, respectively.
According to Zmistowski, the Warriors’ winning group totaled 119 repetitions to claim the bench-press competition. They also won the farmer’s run relay, which involved carrying kettle bells. The group placed second in the one-man and five-man sled drives, and finished third in the tractor tire flip.
“Any time you get a chance to compete against the other county schools, it’s always a fun time,” Cherokee head coach Josh Shaw said. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to perform to the best of their ability, and they did that.”
Shaw was especially excited for his players because he understands the rivalry the county schools have with one another.
“They had a really good showing (Friday) and now they get bragging rights,” Shaw said. “Our kids knew coming in that Etowah has been the dominant team and this was a chance to knock them off. They came out and did what they had to do to get ahead of everybody.”
With so many 7-on-7 passing tournaments available for schools, Shaw said the Lineman Challenge is a great way for the “guys in the trenches” to be involved in something as well.
“The linemen become a forgotten group over the summer,” he said. “It’s great to have something like this to showcase their skills. It gets them fired up, and it gets our parents fired up, too. It’s the one event they look forward to over the summer. The Cherokee recreation department does a great job putting this on.”