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Football 2020: Experience working in favor of Cherokee Bluff in Region 7-3A
Bears improved with offseason addition of athlete Shad Dabney from Riverside Military
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The Cherokee Bluff players get instruction Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, during a pre-season scrimmage at Cherokee Bluff stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers

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The Cherokee Bluff football team is entering its third year as a program, and according to head coach Tommy Jones, things are looking up for a Bears squad that has found limited success in its first two seasons. Cherokee Bluff won just two games in 2019, but showed marked improvement from a winless first season in 2018, and Jones said he believes the Bears are going to take another step this season.  

A group that was previously scarce on upperclassmen talent is matured significantly now that Cherokee Bluff has had a couple years to establish the program. With talented playmakers reprising starting roles on both sides of the ball and newcomer Shad Dabney primed to give the Bears a boost of energy, Jones said he has high expectations for his team entering Year 3 as a program. 

“We’re really excited about the start of the season,” he said. “Obviously we’re a new program, and our goal from the beginning was to build this thing brick-by-brick, one step at a time. We feel like we have steadily made slow progress, and we’re looking forward to getting out on the field and take another step again. We have the highest of expectations for this program every single day.” 


In Cherokee Bluff’s inaugural season two years ago, the Bears had just three seniors on the roster, and the team only had eight seniors a year ago. Age and experience have turned from weak points to strengths this season though, as Cherokee Bluff will welcome back 19 seniors and 16 juniors to a suddenly extremely experienced group.  

Jones said senior players such as Garrett Davis, Eli Little and Eric Gohman, “among many others,” will be looked to as the leaders of the team. Those three seniors, along with junior Brayden Nance, make up a linebacker group that Jones said “is where our defense really starts.”  

Offensively, Davis and junior Mateo Guevara will be anchoring the offensive line, with juniors Sebastian Irons and Jayquan Smith filling in at quarterback and running back respectively. Lack of “Friday night experience” has been an issue for the Cherokee Bluff in its last two seasons, but it won’t be this year. 

“I guess that’s one advantage we have when you don’t have many upperclassmen in Year’s 1 and 2,” Jones said. “You have a group of kids that have played on Friday night before for sure.” 


Cherokee Bluff found plenty of success running the ball last season, with Smith going for over 800 yards in just seven games played and averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. The Bears struggled a bit more passing the ball, but Jones said he’s hoping to run a much more balanced offense this season.  

“(Passing) is something we’re going to have to be better at this year in order for us to win some close games and to be able to take that next step,” he said. 

Jones said that Irons has been impressing coaches at practice with both his physical abilities and his understanding of the Cherokee Bluff offense, which is comprised of a wide variety of formations.  

In the receiving game, Jones said he’s expecting a big year from senior Jaylon Justice, who was an All-Region receiver as a sophomore but was limited due to injury last season. Dabney will also be playing out of the slot, and Jones said he might even play some wildcat quarterback.  

“We’re going to have to be better at throwing the ball,” Jones said. “That’s been a big challenge for us this offseason, to be able to improve in that game.” 


When Riverside Military Academy called off fall sports, Kansas-commit Dabney joined the Bears in June and provides an immediate boost on both sides of the ball for the Bears.  

Dabney will work as a slot receiver and wildcat quarterback on offense and will step in as a starting cornerback defensively. He brings Division I-level athleticism to Cherokee Bluff, but will also make significant contributions on the practice field and even off the field entirely, according to Jones.  

Dabney served as an emotional leader of the Eagles football team for the last two seasons, and Jones said he will be reprising that role for the Bears. 

“Shad is just a tremendous athlete, and we’re proud of the way that he has fit into the Cherokee Bluff culture,” Jones said. “Just an infectious competitor that we believe makes us better on and off the field.” 


1. Shad Dabney Sr. ATH

2. Wyatt Campbell Sr. WR/DB

3. John Bazemore Sr. WR/DB

4. Charles Tolbert Sr. RB/LB

5. Jamir Tolbert Sr. WR/DB

6. Deakon Phillips Sr. WR/DB

7. Jaylon Justice Sr. WR/DB

8. Brayden Nance Jr. RB/LB

10. Ty Corbin Fr. RB/DB

11. Jhace Justice So. WR/DB

12. Asher Wilson Fr. QB

14. Sebastian Irons Jr. QB

15. Perry Haynes Fr. RB/DB

16. Eli Little Sr. TE/LB

18. Josh Oliver Fr. QB

20. Logan Stanley So. WR/DB

21. Jaylon Carroll Fr. RB/DB

22. Eric Thomas Fr. RB/DB

23. Myka Sims Sr. DL

24. Sam Stribling Jr. RB/DB

25. Dakota Collins Sr. TE/DL

26. Paul Smathers So. WR/DB

27. Micah Hunter Jr. WR/DB

28. Jayquan Smith Jr. RB/DB

30. Eric Gohman Sr. TE/LB

31. Bradley Carbrera Jr. TE/LB

34. Harrison Carter Sr. RB/LB/P

35. Isaiah Shepherd So. WR/LB

36. Hayden Biggs So. WR/DB

37. Kade Tankersley So. WR/DB

38. Conner Hulsey Fr. WR/LB

39. Nathan Miller Fr. WR/DB

40. Evan Gonzales So. TE/LB

41. Thomas Bowden Jr. WR/DB

42. Jacob Banks So. TE/LB

43. Isaiah Martin Jr. WR/LB

44. Will Walker So. WR/LB

46. Jack Hamilton Fr TE/LB

48. TJ Lothridge Fr. WR/LB

50. Nick Richardson Sr. OL/LB

51. Lincoln Lunt Fr. OL/DL

52. Parker Waldrop Fr. OL/DL

53. Ryan Graves Fr. OL/DL

54. Cody Critchfield Jr. OL/DL

55. Mateo Guevara Jr. OL/DL

56. Garrett Davis So. OL/LB

57. Will Hansen Fr. OL/LB

58. Will Harkins Sr. OL/DL

59. Dylan Roberts Jr. OL/DL

60. Jeremiah West Fr. OL/LB

61. Carter Daum So. OL/LB

62. Nathan Richardson Fr. OL/DL

63. Nick Merrell So. OL/DL

64, Cason Moore Jr. OL/DL

65. Blaine Skinner Jr. OL/LB

66. Keller Atkinson Jr. OL/DL

70. Noah Davis Fr. OL/DL

71. Burdette MacDougall Fr. OL/DL

72. Austin Essex Fr. OL/LB

74. Charles Lush Fr. OL/DL

75. Jacob Benjamin So. OL/DL

76. Andrew Wade Sr. OL/DL

77. Ethan Sullivan Sr. OL/DL

78. Bryson Slocumb So. OL/DL

80. Parker Watt So. TE/LB

81. AJ Schultz Fr. WR/DB

82. Braeden Bahn Sr. TE/LB

83. Mason Gill Jr. K

84. Michael Arbour Fr. K

85. Nathan Jackovatz So. WR/DB

86. Abe Evans So. WR/DB

87. Reid Silver So. WR/LB

88. Xavier Diaz So. K

89. Steele Smith Fr. WR/DB

90. Ricky Lush Jr. P

92. Colby Harrison Jr. TE/DL

99. Hunter Waldrop Sr. Snapper


September 4 JOHNSON

September 11 at Chestatee

September 25 at Georgia Military College

October 2 LAKESIDE

October 9 GILMER

October 16 at West Hall

October 30 at Lumpkin County

November 6 at Dawson County

November 13 NORTH HALL

November 20 WHITE COUNTY

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