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High school football: Cherokee Bluff uses big first half to top Chestatee in Region 8-4A
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Cherokee Bluff's Jaylen Carroll (9) runs with the ball against Kell in the Corky Kell Classic on Aug. 17, 2022 in Johns Creek. - photo by Bill Murphy

Being multidimensional is a trait any football coach wants to see from his offense.

Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones got exactly that from his offensive unit in Friday night’s Region 8-4A game against Chestatee.

The Bears rolled up 505 yards of total offense with both the running and passing games contributing to amass a huge lead by halftime and cruise to a 42-21 victory at Yohah Field.

It wasn’t just the production on the ground (310 yards, led by Jaylon Carroll’s 133 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and 102 yards on 18 carries for Perry Haynes) or through the air (a combined 183 yards from quarterbacks Asher Wilson and Brooks Brien), plus 81 yards on five catches and a touchdown each rushing and receiving by Max Eubanks that made Cherokee Bluff so balanced.

It was also how the Bears (2-2, 2-0 in Region 8-4A) distributed all those yards, with 10 different rushers producing positive yardage and seven different receivers hauling in receptions.

About the only negative on the night was an injury to Wilson late in the first quarter, though even there, Brien stepped in to complete 6 of 7 passes for 78 yards and lead three second-quarter touchdown drives, including a TD.

“I’m just proud of our execution,” Bears coach Tommy Jones said. “We’re a multiple offensive team. We believe that for us to be successful, we need to be able to both play in the shoe box and play in the cow pasture. I thought Asher made some big plays early, and I’m really proud of our backup Brooks coming in after Asher got dinged up a little bit and continuing to move the ball.

“We feel like we’ve got some different playmakers, and we know that we’re better when we can spread it around and get different people the football.”

The Cherokee Bluff defense also was solid most of the night even with Chestatee (1-3, 1-1) managing 313 yards on the night, though that number was a bit skewed by some big plays after the issue had been decided in the second half.

The Bears also created three turnovers, including a pick six by 52-yard pick six by Landon Kemp in the fourth quarter.

Cherokee Bluff rolled up 343 yards – 186 through the air and 157 on the ground – and scored on five of its six offensive possessions in the first half.

The first two of those possessions chewed up a combined 157 yards and drained more than eight minutes in the first quarter off the clock.

And while the running of Carroll and Haynes were key in those early drives, the Bears did get a pair of touchdown passes – one from Wilson of 38 yards to Eubanks with 7:34 left in the opening frame and a 51-yard scoring strike to Jhace Justice with 8.6 seconds left in the half to take a commanding 35-0 lead into intermission.

Chestatee’s biggest moment in the first half was when Pruitt snagged a pass from Josh Kermode and broke it off for a 64-yard completion on the first play of its second possession of the game to get the ball into the red zone, but an interception by Cherokee Bluff’s Kaden Thompson in the end zone ended that scoring opportunity.

The War Eagles finally were able to break through in the second half, thanks in no small part to more big plays from Pruitt, who finished with three carries for 59 yards and a TD rushing and four receptions for 96, and Adriel Vargas, who finished with seven carries for 85 yards and a score on the ground. 

Pruitt finally got Chestatee on the board with a 1-yard score with 1:22 left in the third quarter that cut the Cherokee Bluff lead to 35-7.

The War Eagles then answered Kemps pick six with 5-yard TD run by Vargas with 1:20, plus Ethan Clark’s 14-yard scoop and score with 25.6 seconds left to account for the final margin.

The second half surge was a positive Chestatee coach Shaun Conley hopes his team can build on moving forward into next week’s road game at No. 2 state-ranked North Oconee and beyond.

“That’s what we try to hang our hat on, not paying attention to the scoreboard and taking care of what we can take care of and just playing hard,” Conley said. “That game is over and we’re moving onto the next one and trying to get better.”

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