The Fan of the Week program, started by Cherokee assistant coach Clint Shaw, has the goal of giving special-needs children the opportunity to experience high school football games from a perspective they may never get to.
During the football season, Cherokee selects a student from its district each week to attend the pregame meal and be on the sideline with the team for the game. A student is also selected from each opponent’s district to be a part of the festivities during the week that team faces the Warriors.
Because Cherokee doesn’t play each of the other schools in the county, during the Warriors’ bye week, Shaw takes the Fan of the Week program on the road to other schools in the county.
At the end of the season, five of the county’s high schools selected two players from its football team that embody the spirit of the Fan of the Week program and recognize them at the banquet. Introductions by the high school coaches told stories of dedication to the football team and perseverance.
Cherokee head coach Josh Shaw said it’s nice to recognize the players who don’t necessarily lead the team in stats but are important all the same.
“A lot of times, you get caught up in the players who make the tackles and score the touchdowns,” Shaw said. “Those are the ones you expect to remember, but you end up remembering the ones who, instead of making tackles, display leadership for the team.”
Among the players recognized from Shaw’s team was Jordan Freeman, a wide receiver, who missed three weeks of the season after contracting Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus, better known as MRSA.
Freeman spent seven days in the hospital and has an 8-inch scar on his arm, where doctors had to remove tissue in order to get the virus to stop spreading.
Jesse Lee was the other player recognized from Cherokee.
Etowah coach Dave Svehla talked about two of his players who saw injuries keep them on the sidelines, but not dim their spirits.
Among them was Ayden Bonilla, who committed to play football at North Carolina two weeks before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The linebacker worked hard to stay in shape and became a position coach for the Eagles.
Etowah also recognized player Marshall Sturdivant and fan Jerrad Ferraro of Boston Elementary.
Sequoyah recognized players Corey Southerland and Jonathan Tamayo and fan Seth FitzPatrick, a student at Mountain Road Elementary.
Woodstock recognized players Alex Motsinger and Joesph Arcuri and fan Joshua Shackelford, a student at Carmel Elementary.
Assistant coach Corey Nix gave introductions for the trio, mentioning that Motsinger sawed a portion of a cast off his arm prior to the team’s season finale in order to be able to better pass the ball with a broken arm.
Creekview players Connor Dulmage and Chandler Wold were recognized, as well as fans Roy Moss, a student at Creekland Middle, and Zana Lumpkin of Ball Ground Elementary.
Cherokee, which has a fan of the week for each game, recognized Noah Spinetto (Cherokee High), DeAndre Turner (Canton Elementary), Donicio Diaz-Juarquin (Hasty Elementary), Justice Lowe (Cherokee Junior Warriors), Cierra Hypes (Liberty Elementary), Noah Hyder ( R.M Moore Elementary), Matthew Middlebrooks (Clayton Elementary), Maria Jimenez-Cruz (Hasty Elementary), Jon Olivier (Knox Elementary), James Leatherman (Cherokee Youth Football) and Jackson Zahorodny (Verticle Vision).