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High school football: Unbeaten Cherokee Bluff gearing up for talented Gilmer to open Region 7-3A play Friday
Bears bolster talented defense that has recorded a shutout in 3 of 4 victories
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Cherokee Bluff celebrates a touchdown Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, during the first half of their win over Johnson High at Cherokee Bluff High. - photo by Scott Rogers

Despite a 4-0 start, Cherokee Bluff coach Tommy Jones isn’t going to say anything inflammatory that could stoke the opposition with all six games in Region 7-3A remaining on the schedule. The only coach in school history for the Bears is leery of getting too excited about early success when the games that determine who goes to the playoffs are still all on the table.

However, early struggles and growing pains when the program opened in 2018 have made for a veteran squad that is starting to develop an identity. 

“We have a lot of guys who have a lot of playing experience and speak the same language on the field,” Jones said. “It’s no longer a ‘101 Course’ like our first season.”

Still, talk about a potential playoff berth is not in Jones’ plans, at least not yet, even though the Bears appear primed to be one of the top teams in their league of seven programs. 

Up first in region play, Cherokee Bluff will face Gilmer (2-1) on Friday in Flowery Branch. 

Jones said that’s enough to keep his entire program busy all week without looking any further down the line. 

“This is a good Gilmer team we’re about to play,” Jones said. “They’re disciplined and very well coached. 

“I know coach (Kevin) Saunders is doing an outstanding job with that program.”

Saunders took over the Bobcats program in 2019 and guided them to a 4-6 season after going winless from 2016-2018. 

Gilmer is guided by a prolific junior running back Kobe Stonecipher, who ran for 288 yards and three scores Sept. 25 against East Jackson. The Bobcats’ 150-pound running back now has 477 yards on 54 carries this season. 

However, Cherokee Bluff has a defensive squad that has shown every week that it’s likely one of the best in Hall County. The Bears have won 3 of 4 games with shutouts. The only two touchdowns allowed were in Week 2 against Chestatee, a 49-14 win for Cherokee Bluff in Gainesville. 

For the defensive success, Jones gives the credit to his defensive coordinator Chris Griffin, who prior to coming to Cherokee Bluff was a four-year head coach at Flowery Branch.

“Coach Griffin is an excellent man and doing an outstanding job with our defensive unit,” Jones said. 

Last week, Cherokee Bluff allowed a season-best 27 yards to Lakeside-DeKalb in a 42-0 win. 

Jones is incredibly careful in choosing his words when looking toward the most important part of the schedule. 

“We’re still an incredibly young team and trying to figure some things out,” Jones said. “In saying that, tangible victories certainly give us encouragement to keep moving forward.”

Cherokee Bluff still has games against North Hall, Dawson County, Lumpkin County, West Hall and the favorite to win it all in 7-3A White County still on the schedule. 

“We know North Hall will be hitting their stride by the time we play them (Nov. 13) and West Hall has some really good talent,” Jones said. 

With the exception of Gainesville, everyone in Hall County will open region competition this week. The Red Elephants beat Forsyth Central, 33-28, to open Region 6-7A play on Oct. 2 in Cumming. 


Friday’s schedule

Cherokee Bluff vs. Gilmer

North Hall vs. West Hall

East Hall vs. Cedar Shoals

Flowery Branch vs. Jefferson

Lakeview Academy vs. Coosa

Gainesville vs. Hillgrove

Johnson vs. Loganville


Bye: Chestatee

Regional events