Photo: Hokes Bluff’s Braydon Hill (10) stretches for a key first down during the Eagles’ 21-17 victory over Cherokee County in high school football last Friday (Oct. 19) in Centre. (Alex Chaney)
By Grant Benefield/For Cherokee County Herald
Cherokee County gave second-ranked Hokes Bluff all it could handle last Friday (Oct. 19) but the Warriors fell just short of pulling the upset in a 21-17 Class 4A, Region 6 football game in Centre.
“The kids played really well tonight and I hate how it ended for them,” said CCHS head coach Tom Curry said. “We played our tails off. I know it’s a loss, but this is the proudest I’ve been of the team all year. We had a game plan, and we executed it well tonight. We have another game next week against Cleburne County, so we need to regroup and perform well again.”
The Warriors (3-5, 2-4) jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but could not fend off the Eagle ground game down the stretch.
Cherokee County scored on its first two possessions. It took the Warriors just three plays to get on the scoreboard as sophomore quarterback Slade Alexander found senior receiver Julian Latty all alone on the left side of the field for an easy 40-yard touchdown pass.
The next CCHS score came from some bruising goal line running from junior running back Kendrick Fife, who took it in from a yard out to put the home team up by two scores in the first quarter. Martin Maier converted both extra points to make the score 14-0.
But the Eagles (8-0, 6-0) didn’t let the Warriors’ momentum keep them down. The visitors found their footing late in the first quarter, with junior running back Darrian Meads sparking his team on a long 58-yard touchdown rush.
Meads wasn’t finished. He scored again in the second quarter, this time on a 4-yard run. Eagle kicker Ethan Whitcomb converted on the PAT to even the score at 14 at halftime.
After halftime, both defenses wouldn’t budge, as neither team scored in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Maier gave the Warriors the lead on a 23-yard field goal to make the score 17-14 with 8:08 left in regulation.
Hokes Bluff promptly began a slow march down the field on their next drive, capped by yet another rushing touchdown from Meads on an 11-yard scamper. Whitcomb added the extra point to put the Eagles in front 21-17 with 2:18 remaining in the game.
With one final possession to pull off the upset, the Warriors advanced into Eagle territory, but an interception by Gage Wise sealed the win for Hokes Bluff.
Meads collected 200 of the Eagles’ 279 total yards of offense on 29 carries with all three touchdowns.
With starting quarterback Austin Gulledge sidelined with an injury, Connor Faulkner was 4 for 9 in passing for 37 yards. Braydon Hill had two receptions for 15 yards and ran five times for 35 yards. Defensively, Will Clemons finished with eight tackles, while Jackson Fielding had seven.
For the Warriors, Alexander finished with 121 passing yards on 11-of-17 attempts. He added 81 yards rushing on 19 carries. Senior running back Caden Hubbard collected 100 rushing yards on just nine carries.
“Getting into the state playoffs is your number one goal, and most teams play better at home,” said Roberson. “But we’ll have to play a lot better if we’re going to beat Jacksonville. They’ve got so much team speed that their linemen can run with our backs. Hopefully Ashton will be well enough to play, because he’s not just one of best offensive players but one of our best defensive players as well.”
Hokes Bluff can clinch its first region tile since 1999 at home this week against No. 3 Jacksonville.
Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.