Dameron has his team focused on finishing a game. In the Warriors’ two losses, the team has kept the game close late into the third quarter.
But, in both of those occasions, Cherokee let the games slip away on big plays or turnovers. As a result, the Warriors’ record has slipped to 1-2 after an impressive season-opening win against North Forsyth.
“Our focus has been on finishing the second half,” Dameron said. “In the last couple of games, we kept it close only to have the game go against us in the late stages. We need to try to create breaks and take advantage of them when we get them. We have not been in the plus on the turnover margin in our two losses.”
In a 38-14 loss to Milton, the Warriors trailed 17-14 in the fourth quarter before the Eagles rattled off three straight touchdowns. In a 33-9 loss to West Forsyth, Cherokee trailed 13-9 late in the third before another three-touchdown outburst from the opposition.
Dameron said he has been working hard with his team so they don’t see more of the same Friday at Mill Creek (2-0).
“We have been conditioning before practice to try to get them in that state they would be in late in the game,” Dameron said. “They are winded and fatigued like they would be late in a game. It is hard to mimic exactly what they will see because there is much more emotion in a game than in practice.”
Dameron said the focus is on getting his players to think and react quickly.
“We will go one way with the play-calling, and then we will flip it on them,” he said.
Mill Creek is part of Region 7AAAAA, which is the first-round counterpart of Cherokee and its Region 5AAAAA brethren. Dameron said this week’s game against the Hawks represents where his Warriors want to be in seven weeks, when the postseason begins.
Dameron also said that, while this game may not mean anything in the standings, but it is still a meaningful game for Cherokee.
“When you look at the big picture, we want to play in the state playoffs, and that road takes us through Gwinnett County,” Dameron said. “We are on the road to Gwinnett County and this game gives us a preview of what that would look like later. If we get to Game 11, we will have already been to Gwinnett County.”
Dameron said the Warriors will have to stop a dynamic player on either side of the ball for a road victory to be a possibility.
“We will be tested on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Their senior quarterback, John Russ, does a great job of leading that team. And they have a nose tackle, Kelsey Griffin, who is a beast on the inside.”
Cherokee lost 35-14 to Mill Creek last year when it visited Tommy Baker Field, but the game was later forfeited to the Warriors when the Hawks were revealed to have used an ineligible player.
This will be Cherokee’s last tuneup before region play begins Sept. 23. Dameron said the upcoming bye week in between Mill Creek and Woodstock will help him evaluate his team and get his players healthy.
“We open with the four (teams) who made it in (the playoffs) right off the bat,” Dameron said, referring to Woodstock, Etowah, Lassiter and Walton. “We will find out what chances we have in the first four weeks.”