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Cherokee Bluff falls in second round, despite two-score first-half lead against Appling County
Cherokee Bluff football 2021
Cherokee Bluff's Jacob Benjamin (75) leads the way on the tackle against Appling County on Nov. 19, 2021 at Yonah Field in Flowery Branch. Photo by Paul Sasso MV Photo Concepts.

Cherokee Bluff High’s football season came to and end Friday night.

The Bears could not do the things it wanted to do, while Appling County did exactly what it was looking to do.

In the end, the Pirates put the ball in Taylen Crosby’s hand who led them to a 34-20 win over Cherokee Bluff at Yonah Field. The Bears (11-1) were eliminated from Class AAA state playoffs.

Appling County (11-1) advances to the state quarterfinals against Thomson because of its ability to run the football with Crosby. 

The 5-foot-8 senior took several direct snaps for chunks of yards. He rushed up the middle, slipped through tackles, raced out the edge, and cut across the field before making four trips into the end zone.

He had runs of 24, 77, 52, and 61 yard runs. Crosby finished the evening with 324 yards and 12 carries.

“I thought that bunch (Appling County) over there executed at a high level,” Bears coach Tommy Jones said. “They executed better than we did. It wasn’t for lack of effort. It wasn’t for lack of want to. It was simply, we had a hard time blocking and tackling tonight.

“When you don’t block and tackle real well it is hard to win football games against a good football team.”

Cherokee Bluff’s inability to keep Crosby from breaking out for big plays quieted the Bears faithful. Most of his runs came when the ball was snapped directly to him. His ability to allude tacklers was mesmerizing.

The Bears took a 13-0 lead early in through the first quarter. 

Senior quarterback Sebastian Irons threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marlion Jackson. Then Irons then used his legs on a four-yard run.

Cherokee Bluff’s offense struggled to get into any rhythm most of the game. Running back Jayquan Smith was met at the line of scrimmage by multiple defenders. He was never allowed to get out and make a big play. 

“A lot of credit goes to that bunch of there,” Jones said. “They did a good job stopping what we like to do and do well. They made some good adjustments. They played well and prevented us from executing like we wanted to against a really good team.”

Before Crosby became the focal point of the Pirates offensive attack, Dayson Griffis threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Georgia commit Darris Smith giving them a 14-13 lead. This was one they never relinquished again.

Irons connected with Brayden Nance for a nine-yard score after Sam Stribling’s interception. 

It was the last score of the Bears season. 

After the game, Jones hugged all the seniors before they made their final walk to the locker room.

“We are disappointed tonight but we will get up in the morning, and we will not feel defeated,” Jones said. “We’ll remember stories of a group of seniors that overcame great odds to win two region championships, and have an undefeated season. I know our staff, we’re indebted to those guys. I saw a group of guys who love each other and walk off the field with their heads held high without any regrets at all.”

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