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Seniors 2020: This reliable Cherokee Bluff senior was school's first three-sport standout
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Cherokee Bluff's Jacob Carlson runs the ball during a game against Lumpkin County at Cherokee Bluff High School on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

The totality of Jacob Carlson’s high school experience was his versatility across the board. Adjectives most applicable to describe his high school sports career are reliable, likeable, loyal and consistent.

He didn’t have any time to rest after a sports season in 2019 and 2020 at Cherokee Bluff High. 

It was go, go, go for Carlson, who moved to the new school for his final two years from his hometown and former school Carrollton, about an hour west of Atlanta. 

Carlson was the first three-sport standout at the school that opened its doors in the fall of 2018 in Flowery Branch. 

Carlson was an All-Region punter and valued wide receiver on the football field. In basketball, he was a talented player inside. In the spring, Carlson picked up baseball and was a key to Cherokee Bluff’s trip to the state tournament for Class 3A in its first season.

“He was a huge part of building an awesome foundation for the baseball program,” Cherokee Bluff baseball coach Jeremy Kemp said. 

“Jacob was the most consistent player on the team,” Bears basketball coach Benjie Wood said. “He did whatever it took to help us win.”

The recent graduate will attend Georgia Southern University in the fall and hopes to join the football program as a punter. Kicking was a late add to his skillset when the 6-foot-3 Carlson picked it up from Cherokee Bluff assistant coach Eric Sutulovich, the former assistant special teams coach for the Atlanta Falcons. 

Carlson did his most work on the football field. 

He led the Bears in receptions in 2018 and 2019 and could line up at defensive back. Carlson was compliant to line up and play any position that football coach Tommy Jones needed his talented athlete on the field, which is a quality that goes a long way with a brand-new program.

“Jacob’s a great athlete and an outstanding young man,” Cherokee Bluff football coach Tommy Jones said. “Our coaching staff was thankful to have him in our program.”

Carlson was a valued member in basketball season, starting after 6-8 junior Corey Thomas went down early last season with a non-contact broken leg. Cherokee Bluff kept playing at a high level with Carlson starting, going on to win in its first state playoff game in school history. 

Carlson settled in nicely to his new role, providing around 8 points and 6 rebounds a night. 

However, his biggest attribute was being a calming presence who led by example on the floor. 

In the first round of state, Carlson got his team together for a pregame and fourth-quarter talk, mainly directed to the trio of freshmen who were significant contributors against Westminster in Atlanta. 

“I could tell everyone was excited but scared at the same time,” said Carlson. “I just told everyone to do their job, and we’d be fine. 

Cherokee Bluff settled in late and left Westminster with a 61-51 victory and trip to the Sweet 16.

He said winning that postseason game was the most rewarding of his career. 

“The feeling after winning that playoff game for a second-year team was definitely rewarding, showing that if you put in the time and work with your teammates, then you can do something most people wish to do,” Carlson said.

How Carlson landed at Cherokee Bluff is an interesting sidebar. After moving to Braselton, when his mother received a job promotion, he had two choices for where to attend school. He could be in the first group of students at Cherokee Bluff or attend Buford. 

Coming from Carrollton, he was less than keen on the idea of playing for its rival in football at Buford. When he was a freshman, the Trojans lost to the Wolves in the state quarterfinals. Buford beat Carrollton again in the same round of the 2019 playoffs. 

So, Cherokee Bluff it was. 

He knew it would be a learning curve for many of the players he suited up with during football season. Many who would play on varsity had no prior experience on Friday nights in the fall. 

Carlson expanded the positions he played at the new school. At Carrollton, he was primarily a defensive back on the gridiron. He was also active in the lacrosse program.

However, moving to Hall County came with expected issues of missing his close friends — one in particular was linebacker Chase McDaniel, the Carrollton High player who was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and died Nov. 16, 2019. 

During basketball season, Carlson honored his friend with a wristband with No. 42 in 2019-2020. 

“All my coaches were great and helped me through it,” said Carlson. 

Overall, moving to a new school was a wonderful experience for this versatile athlete and well-liked student. 

“I feel like it was a good move,” said Carlson. “It’s showed me that it’s okay to move on and not stay trapped in one place.”

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