While Cherokee Bluff and Chestatee are different football teams in a lot of ways, the situation the two teams are in coming into their Region 8-4A clash Friday night at Yonah Field is quite similar.
Both the Bears (1-2, 1-0) and War Eagles (1-2, 1-0) dropped their only two non-region games to start the season, but got off to a good start in region play with a win last week.
That could make Friday’s game particularly pivotal, with the winner putting itself into a very strong position as the lengthy region schedule, and the regular season as a whole, inching closer to its midpoint.
“Momentum is a funny thing in this sport as the season progresses,” Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones said. “I think both of us have some young players and have some new starters on each side. We’re still in the process of figuring out who we are identity-wise. Another big step to evaluating that will be on Friday.”
However, one other thing Jones and Chestatee coach Shaun Conley also want their teams to share in common is to not be so focused on what is down the road as to overlook what is immediately in front of them.
“It is a big game,” Conley said. “But I tell everyone this, … and I know it sounds cliché and all of that, but this game is important to Chestatee because it’s the next one. There are so many things that can happen in our region with eight games, and certainly, this game has importance. But I don’t see it as any more important than (any other).
“If we win, obviously we’ll be in good shape. But if we can’t win, it’s not going to be the end of the season for us. We just approach it (as) the most important game because it’s the next one. We can’t afford to look past (the next game). There are just so many things that can happen in high school before Friday night.”
As Jones mentioned, both teams do come in riding plenty of momentum from last week’s wins.
After taking an early lead on a 2-yard Perry Haynes touchdown run and a 96-yard TD pass from Asher Wilson to Max Eubanks, Cherokee Bluff had to endure a late comeback by Madison County before Wilson hit Carlos Marlow on a 25-yard scoring strike late to secure a 20-19 road win.
The win showed an increasing sense of confidence and maturity from the Bears, and particularly their junior quarterback Wilson, something Jones is very encouraged to see.
“I think our quarterback Asher Wilson continues to play well,” Jones said. “I really do. He’s got a lot of arm talent. Game-by-game, he seems to be getting a better grasp of managing and running our offense. He’s an athlete. He has the ability to extend plays. He’s played really well for us.”
Meanwhile, Chestatee used a second-half surge behind sophomore quarterback Josh Kermode to pull away from a 44-12 win over East Hall at Lynn Cottrell Stadium.
But as big a factor as Kermode’s 250 yards of total offense and three TDs were to that win, Conley was perhaps even more encouraged by the performance of the War Eagles’ defense that clamped down and created six turnovers in the second half, including two interceptions from cornerback Christian Vargas, one of which went for a score.
“I don’t know that I can single out any player,” Conley said. “Maybe a group of players. Our defense really improved last week. They played really well, created a bunch of turnovers and stuff like that.
“Our offense is (also) starting to play well at times. That’s our focus on offense, just being consistent and just getting better. We try to take it day by day and game by game.”