The Warriors suffered their first loss of the season as North Forsyth broke some big plays in the second half for a 34-27 victory at Tommy Baker Field.
Cherokee (2-1) fell behind quickly. After giving up a long return on the opening kickoff, the Raiders (3-0) were quick to score on a 2-yard run with 6:36 remaining in the first half.
Cherokee running back Brittain Brown fumbled on the Warriors’ first play from scrimmage, North Forsyth recovered the ball on the Cherokee 24 and then scored five plays later to make it 14-0 in the first quarter.
The Warriors seemed to shake off the early mistakes and went to work on a 72-yard drive, but they came up short when the field-goal attempt failed.
This time, it was the Cherokee defense which stepped up.
Just two plays after giving the ball back to North Forsyth, the Warriors regained possession by forcing a fumble on the Raiders’ 25. Just four plays later, the Warriors were in the end zone with an 8-yard run by Brown. Obie Brannon was good with the extra-point, and Cherokee trailed 14-7.
While Cherokee’s defense couldn’t work quite the same magic on the Raiders’ next possession, it was able to hold North Forsyth on a fourth-and-short, and the ball was turned over on downs. The teams then swapped punts before Cherokee put together another scoring drive.
Brown once again capped the drive with a 17-yard run, but the point-after attempt failed and the Warriors still trailed 14-13 at the half.
The third quarter brought more of the same for Cherokee, which seemed to have turned the tide.
On a 74-yard drive that featured Blake Johnston doing most of the work on the ground, the Warriors scored in unusual fashion. Backed up with a holding penalty, Cherokee found itself on third-and-goal from the 12. Quarterback Spencer Ashley targeted Blace Brown for the reception, but the ball was tipped by Brown before Andrew Harris brought in the catch.
Cherokee was up 20-14 for its first lead of the night, but North Forsyth responded before the end of the third quarter. Zach Slaton scored his second rushing touchdown of the night, and the quarter ended with the Raiders up 21-20.
Cherokee went to work on the ground again with Johnston eating up yards, but all that changed when Ashley dropped back to pass. A Raider defender jumped the route and intercepted the pass, cutting short what appeared to be a promising drive.
North Forsyth converted that turnover into a 15-yard passing touchdown from Harris Roberts to Luke Slaton.
Cherokee was unable to get the its offense going and turned the ball over on its next possession. With less than 2 minutes remaining in the game, the Warriors’ defense attempted to hold the Raiders, but Slaton broke free after catching a long pass and scored from 49 yards out.
North Forsyth led 34-20 with 1:24 remaining.
Cherokee responded with a 57-yard touchdown drive, which ended with Ashley rushed for the 5-yard score with 13 seconds remaining. But the game was effectively over when the Warriors failed to recover an onside kick attempt.
Johnston led Cherokee with 16 carries for 103 yards. Blace Brown caught six passes for 107 yards.
What cost the Warriors the most were penalties.
“They hurt quite a bit,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “Really, the holding calls are extremely devastating because they are 15-yarders. Instead of second-and-whatever or third-and-whatever, it because first-and-25 or second-and-25, and it becomes hard to call plays like that. We are a good offensive football team, but you can only convert those so many times.”