“There is a lot of excitement for our students and our players,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “Any time you open up a new facility, there is going to be excitement in the air, but it brings another aspect to the game, just because there is some pride there. Opening a new facility, you want to play well. You only get one first game in that facility, ever, and that will be Friday night. You can either remember it as a win or a loss as you go forward.”
Between the end of last season and the beginning of the school year, the area surrounding Tommy Baker Field underwent extensive changes.
The old field house was torn down and a new one built in its place. The playing field was shifted about 15 yards, a new irrigation system was added and the field received a new crown before fresh sod completed the project.
Preparing for North Forsyth, Shaw said the Warriors put in a good week of practice, and Brittain Brown was even able to be a part of it.
Brown, a two-way starter, missed Cherokee’s season-opening win at Chattahoochee with back pain. Shaw considered him day-by-day at the beginning of the week, but the coach said Wednesday that Brown, a running back and safety, would be good to go.
Cherokee played North Forsyth in the third game of the season last year, and the Raiders dealt the Warriors their first loss. Shaw said he and his players are focused on this game ending differently.
“We have reminded our kids about it,” Shaw said.
In that last game, Cherokee won the coin flip and deferred to the second half. North Forsyth returned the opening kickoff to the Cherokee 20-yard line and scored a few plays later.
The Warriors fumbled the first time they touched the ball and soon found themselves trialing 14-0 about 3 minutes into the game.
“It is definitely something we have brought up,” Shaw said. “We want to eliminate those kinds of mistakes and not dig ourselves a hole like that.”
North Forsyth plays hard-nosed football, so the Warriors will have to match the Raiders physicality. It will be the season opener for North Forsyth, so Shaw is expecting it to play hard.
“I feel like we are a much more physical team now than we were last year,” Shaw said. “I feel like we displayed that last week, and a couple weeks ago in our scrimmage.”
The challenge for the Warriors will be to defend North Forsyth’s unconventional offense, which begins with all 11 players close together, near the line of scrimmage. The Raiders like to lull opponents with a steady running game before stunning them with a long pass. They also use misdirection, and as Shaw said, it’s hard to keep up with because there are so many players in such a small area.
“It’s tough for a scout team to simulate what they do on offense,” Shaw said. “The key to the game will be how well we adjust to that.
“It’s really like one bog of people running at you because everybody is so close together.”