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High school football: Cherokee Bluff blanks Johnson in opening night victory
Bears quarterback Sebastian Irons went 8 of 9 for 114 yards and three touchdowns
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Cherokee Bluff quarterback Sebastian Irons passes the ball downfield Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, during the Bears win over Johnson High at Cherokee Bluff High. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Cherokee Bluff football team didn’t take long to start the 2020 season off with a bang. 

The Bears (1-0) jumped all over visiting Johnson (0-1), scoring six first-half touchdowns to blank the visiting Knights 44-0 on opening night.

“Our guys came out, and I thought we executed well early,” said Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones. “I’m really proud of our effort, concentration and attention to detail.”

Bears quarterback Sebastian Irons was nearly perfect on the night, going 8 of 9 for 114 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Cherokee Bluff also got scores on the ground from Jayquan Smith, Eric Gohman and Charles Tolbert, and added a safety following a high snap on a Johnson punt attempt. 

The win marks the first opening night victory for the Bears in their three seasons since the program began. 

“Hopefully this is a start that will springboard us a little bit,” Jones said. “We realize it’s just one step, but we just want to do this thing step by step.”

STRIKING WHILE IRONS IS HOT

It was just one of those days for Cherokee Bluff quarterback Sebastian Irons.

From his first snap (a 20-yard pass on the money to Shad Dabney down the right sideline) to his last one (a 30-yard touchdown toss to Jaylon Justice on the final play of the second quarter) Irons was accurate and on time. He needed just nine pass attempts to lead six touchdown drives, showing no signs of rust, despite the contest being the first of the year for the team. 

“Really proud of the kid,” Jones said. “He prepares well. He works hard. He’s focused. I’m always really excited to see our kids happy and succeed when they work hard and get an opportunity.”

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Cherokee Bluff's Shad Dabney scores a touchdown Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, during the Bears win over Johnson High at Cherokee Bluff High. - photo by Scott Rogers

GETTING DABNEY INVOLVED

It didn’t take long for Dabney, who joined the Bears as a senior after Riverside Military Academy cancelled all fall sports, to get involved in Cherokee Bluff’s offense. Dabney was targeted on the first play of the game, making a catch along the sideline for 20 yards to start the night off on a high note for the Bears. Later in the opening drive, he gained 11 yards off a direct snap and scored a 6-yard touchdown on a bubble screen that put Cherokee Bluff on top early. 

In total, Dabney notched four touches on the team’s first drive, adding a 1-yard gain on another direct snap.

“We feel like we’ve got a lot of guys that need to get their hands on the football, and obviously he’s one of them,” Jones said. “He’s an explosive playmaker and does good things when he has his hands on the ball.”

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Cherokee Bluff's Charles Tolbert charges Johnson High quarterback Justin Long Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, during the first half of the Bears win over Johnson High at Cherokee Bluff High. - photo by Scott Rogers

MULTI-FACETED THREAT

As dominant as the Cherokee Bluff offense was in the first half of the game, the Bears still found a way to spread the ball around. Six different Cherokee Bluff players scored touchdowns on the night, and although Irons attempted just nine passes, he connected with six different receivers. 

On the ground, the Bears turned to a number of different ball carriers. Jayquan Smith led the way with 57 yards and a touchdown on three carries, and also had a pair of long touchdowns called back on holding calls. Charles Tolbert added 27 yards and a touchdown on his pair of carries.

“Guys executed well tonight,” Jones said. “When their number was called, they stepped up and did a good job.”

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