Each team will have plenty to adjust to this year, with Creekview rising into Class AAAAA and Cherokee having a new head coach for the first time since 2000.
Under the direction of Josh Shaw, who spent the last six years as an assistant coach at Etowah, Cherokee has left behind the run-first offense seen under former coach Brian Dameron in favor of the spread, which will place an emphasis on the passing game.
Shaw is excited to put the new style of offense to the test against the Grizzlies.
“We’re going to throw it, probably 20 to 25 times (tonight),” Shaw said. “It all depends on what the defense gives us, of course, but we plan on putting the ball in the air.”
Shaw knows it won’t be easy to implement the spread against Creekview, which he feels has been known for its sound defense.
“They’ve always played strong defensively, and they are especially good against the run,” Shaw said. “Their line is much bigger than it has been in the past, and they have some good linebackers. It’s a great matchup.”
Cherokee has also moved away from the five-man defensive line it used last year, in favor of a 4-3 defense.
That new-look defense will be tested by an experienced Creekview offense that sees six starters returning, led by senior quarterback Hayden Hall and senior running back Will Kirby.
Creekview coach Al Morrell plans on using Hall and Kirby to attack Cherokee — both on the ground and through the air.
“With players like Hayden and Will, we’re hoping to have a balanced offensive attack,” Morrell said.
Defensively, Morrell feels that stopping Cherokee from making a big play will be vital.
“(Cherokee is) going to try and spread our defense out and exploit the space that we give them,” Morrell said. “They have some good athletes that can make people miss, so we’re going to try and not give them anything big.”
To stop Cherokee from finding success through the air, Morrell will depend on his experienced secondary.
“We’ve only seen one tape of Cherokee, and that was from the scrimmage game that they played last week, so we don’t have much to go on,” Morrell said. “That’s why our experience is going to be key.”
Both coaches expect a hard fought game that will come down to the wire.
“I’m expecting a hard-fought, emotional game that’s going to be decided in the fourth quarter,” Morrell said. “It’ll be fun to watch.”
For Cherokee, Creekview will present a challenge for a madeover team looking to emerge from the recesses of last year’s one-win season.
“We understand that were going to have to play a great game to come out on top,” Shaw said. “It’s going to be a dog-fight.”