On both occasions, turnovers in the first series of the game put the Warriors behind the 8-ball, and into a hole that they were unable to recover from.
“We’re an extremely young team,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “When you do that and put yourself in a hole — we reiterated (Thursday) that once you find yourself down 14-0, it’s hard for a young team to battle back from that.
“Two weeks in a row, we have turned it over in the first two plays of the game. We would prefer for that not to happen. We have to execute, tackle better and see where we’re at.”
In tonight’s Region 5AAAAAA game at Walton (3-1, 1-0), Cherokee (1-3, 0-1) must find a way to limit turnovers.
Although the Raiders would certainly appear to be favored to win on their home turf, Woodstock was able to keep pace through much of last week’s game. It was only when turnovers began to mount that Walton buried the Wolverines’ hope of an upset in a 24-7 victory.
But more than just taking a shot at winning tonight, Shaw said that he wants his program to start building into the type of program that both Lassiter and Walton have created over the last five years.
Walton was the Class AAAAA runner-up last year, with Lassiter losing to the Raiders in the semifinal round.
“I told our kids that when we were done,” Shaw said after last week’s game. “Lassiter hasn’t always been like this. They built the program up in the last four and five years. And we have to do the same thing here. That was one thing I told our kids. I told them that, one day, in the near future, we will be at that point.”
Like they were against Lassiter, Cherokee will be the presumptive underdog against Walton, but Shaw said his expectations were more about seeing his team improve.
“We’re 0-1 in the region, and we faced Lassiter,” he said. “I anticipate them winning the region. After Walton, it will level off and we will have some opportunities to be real competitive. We just want to eliminate the mistakes and get better each week. There’s no wins-and-losses expectation. Every team before the season goes in wanting to play for the postseason in Week 11. But we will worry about Walton this week, and when that game ends, we will start to worry about (the next game with) Woodstock on Saturday.”
Walton will come into tonight’s game banged up, as starting quarterback Parker McLeod will likely not play. Similarly, star running back Tyren Jones was hampered by injury and will likely play tonight with a sore left wrist.
Still, Shaw said he fully expects for the dynamic Jones, who averages well more than 100 yards per game, to get his yardage. However, the Cherokee coach will make every attempt on defense to limit the damage.
“We’ve played good defense against (Walton) with the scheme we’ve had at Etowah over the last couple of years,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t play as well as the year before. We will try to slow down Tyren Jones, but he will get his yards. They try to run him, run him, and then hit you with the deep pass. We will try to minimize the damage that he’s doing to do and, hopefully, we can move the ball offensively.”