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Senior Marlion Jackson continues to provide elite deep threat for No. 10 Cherokee Bluff as it enters second round of football playoffs
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Cherokee Bluff receiver Marlion Jackson catches a pass for the Bears Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, for a long touchdown during the first half of their 3A state playoff game with Greater Atlanta Christian at Yonah Field. - photo by Scott Rogers

Marlion Jackson shouldn’t mind the label ‘one-year wonder.’ 

It certainly describes how well his senior season — and only year — has gone on the football field at Cherokee Bluff. 

In 2021, Jackson has been the ultimate vertical threat for the 10th-ranked Bears (11-0), with nearly 700 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. 

"I feel like I've added another threat to our offense," Jackson said. "We were already advanced in the running game, now we're advanced in the passing game and can go both ways."

Most impressively, for Jackson, nearly 1/3 of his 35 receptions have resulted in a score for Cherokee Bluff. 

“Marlion is having a fantastic season,” Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones said. “He’s an outstanding young man and fits in very well with the program.”

In first round of the state playoffs, Jackson had one of his biggest plays — an 86-yard pass for a touchdown from quarterback Sebastian Irons — in a 38-17 win against Greater Atlanta Christian. 

Jackson said that particular play was 're-routed' after Irons was under pressure and had to improvise. 

"I was tired after that one," Jackson said with a laugh. 

Up next, Cherokee Bluff hosts No. 6 Appling County (10-1) in the second round of the Class 3A playoff bracket Friday night at Yonah Field in Flowery Branch. 

The Pirates are led by senior defensive end Darris Smith, a four-star prospect by who is committed to Georgia, and three-star junior athlete Jaylen Johnson, who has a long list of Power 5 offers. 

“They’re (Appling County) a typical South Georgia team,” Jones said. “Everyone can run and they have multiple big-time college prospects.”

Cherokee Bluff’s second-straight appearance in the Sweet 16 is fueled largely by a relentless defense, which is allowing an average of 10 points per game this season. 

However, Jackson’s big-play ability provides something that is unique to Cherokee Bluff’s offense. 

Right away, the first-year player who came from Mill Creek, meshed well with Irons, Jones said. 

And, shortly thereafter, the big plays starting happening. 

In the season opener, Jackson fielded a punt around midfield and returned it for a touchdown against Johnson. 

After that play, Jones said his coaches shared a glance at one another, knowing that Jackson has breakaway skills. 

Jackson provides the perfect vertical playmaking ability to complement senior running back Jayquan Smith (1,673 yards, 28 touchdowns). 

Near the end of the regular season, Jackson was on the receiving end of a Hail Mary touchdown throw against Dawson County going into halftime. 

On Thursday, Cherokee Bluff’s coach said his program went through its normal routine of a morning walkthrough the day before a game. 

This one is a little bigger than most games — two Top-10 programs facing off in the second round of the playoffs. 

Still, Jones hasn’t sensed a heightened level of nerves of anxiety from his seniors, many of which have been with the program since it started in 2018.

“Our guys have worked extremely hard and are not ready for it to be over,” Jones said. “They understand what is ahead of them against Appling County.”

In 2020, Cherokee Bluff was eliminated in the second round by Carver-Atlanta, one week after winning its first-ever playoff game against Lafayette. 

With a win, Cherokee Bluff will face the winner of Ringgold/Thomson in the state quarterfinals on Nov. 27. 

Second-round playoff schedule

Class 4A

Flowery Branch at Perry

Class 3A

Cherokee Bluff vs. Appling County

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