Cherokee, Etowah and River Ridge all had unsuccessful road trips, and none of them were able to take a lead during regulation. Only Etowah managed to hold the lead at all, when it went ahead by three in overtime, only to lose the game on Pope’s subsequent series.
Despite outgaining the Greyhounds by 118 yards, the Eagles’ inability to convert on third down prevented them from gaining the upper hand in the contest.
Turnovers proved to be costly for both Cherokee and River Ridge, with both teams finding themselves down 14-0 midway through the second quarter thanks to their inability to hold onto the ball.
River Ridge twice turned the ball over in the first quarter at Ridgeland, the first being a fumble on the game’s opening possession inside of its own 20-yard line. Ridgeland soon converted its opportunity into a touchdown on its first play from scrimmage.
The Knights’ night only got worse on the ensuing kickoff.
Ridgeland surprised River Ridge with a pooch kick, and the Panthers were able to recover the ball as it fell in between two waves of River Ridge players.
Ridgeland scored again on the very next play.
After an 0-3 start, River Ridge’s woes seems as if it will continue, as there is no set timetable for the return of last year’s leading rusher, E.J. Ellis, who has yet to play this season after tearing his ACL over the summer.
“He’s out until further notice,” River Ridge coach Robert Braucht said. “The doctors haven’t yet spoken about him coming back.”
Without Ellis, the Knights have struggled to score, averaging less than 12 points a game, less than one-third of the 36.3-point average they had last year.
“He’ll come back once he has proven to the doctors that the swelling in his knee is out,” Braucht said of Ellis. “For all we know, he could come back tomorrow, or in a month. It’s day-to-day for him.”
Much like River Ridge, Cherokee also suffered from a poor start at North Forsyth, fumbling the ball in its first series of the game before throwing an interception less than 6 minutes later.
North Forsyth converted both of the turnovers into touchdowns.
It wasn’t all bad news for Cherokee, however, as sophomore quarterback Spencer Ashley set a new school passing record with 307 yards on 29 completions.
Cherokee called 45 passing plays during the game, which is a number coach Josh Shaw hopes to never see again.
“We had some breakdowns on the offensive line, and were forced to take our game plan in a different direction,” Shaw said. “The only way that we could move the ball downfield was to throw it. Anytime we are throwing the ball over 30 times a game means that it isn’t playing out the way we want it.”
Shaw also said that two of North Forsyth’s three passing touchdowns came when the Cherokee defense was lined up incorrectly, which was also an issue for the Warriors last week against Sequoyah.
Friday’s three losing teams will have the chance to rebound with the benefit of home games next week.
Cherokee’s bid will be the toughest, as it hosts pass-happy Lassiter in its Region 5AAAAAA opener. Etowah will host another region contender in Wheeler, while River Ridge welcomes in LaFayette in a Region 7AAAA crossover game.
The other half of the county’s teams will resume action after their bye weeks. Creekview and Sequoyah will host Kell and Riverwood, respectively, in Region 7AAAAA crossover games, while Woodstock has to contend with Walton and dangerous running back Tyren Jones in 5AAAAAA play.