By Thomas Duggins
Marietta Daily Journal
CANTON — Cherokee’s offense came alive in the second half Friday night, pushing the Warriors to a 29-14 season-opening win against North Forsyth.
The Warriors offense responded with touchdowns on three of their first four possessions in the second half after being held to one score in the first half.
“We we’re having self-inflicted mistakes,” Cherokee head coach Josh Shaw said. “Some said if we took care of that, we’d be able to put points on the board, which we did the second half.”
After being shut out in the first half, the visiting Raiders found life on offense with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that ended when sophomore Patrick Corrigan plowed into the end zone on a 3-yard dive. Corrigan bullied his way in for the following two-point conversion, and for a brief moment in the third quarter North Forsyth drew within one score.
Cherokee’s offense responded with authority on the next play when sophomore quarterback AJ Swann found Landon Ergle on the sideline. The senior wideout sprinted 74 yards to push the Warriors to a 23-8 advantage.
When the Raiders pulled to within 23-14 in the fourth quarter, Cherokee’s offense struck gold again as sophomore Adarrius Harshaw took an end-around 74 yards to extend the lead to its final margin.
“We’ve got some explosive playmakers, and if we can get them the ball in space, usually good things are going to happen. The offensive coaches did a good job getting the ball to those guys in space.” Shaw said.
After limited first-quarter success, the Warriors offense passing attack found its rhythm behind the trio of quarterback AJ Swann and receivers Devin Ellison and Harshaw.
As the first half wound to a close, the Warriors offense put together the game’s first scoring drive when Ellison turned a short pass into a 26-yard scoring reception, pushing their advantage to 9-0.
The Warriors’ defense and special teams carried the team in the first quarter.
Midway through the opening quarter, Alonzo Upshaw’s pinned the Raiders in their own 2-yard line. The next play, Warriors’ nose guard TJ Parks barreled his way through the offensive line and swallowed August Watkins for a safety, giving the host Warriors a 2-0 advantage.
Cherokee’s defense smothered North Forsyth throughout the first half, holding the Raiders to 60 yards while forcing three turnovers. They also stymied the Raiders’ final two offensive drives to preserve the victory.
“We talk about together, toughness and turnovers. That’s been our mantra: Focus on the three T’s. That’s what we did tonight,” Shaw said.
North Forsyth (0-1) will host Gainesville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.