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By GOOSE LINDSAY
The undefeated Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) Middle School Warriors had pretty much demolished every team in their path entering Tuesday's annual clash with Cherokee at Dr. Nat Sugarman Memorial Field.
By the time the night ended, the Warriors were still undefeated, but Ron Treadway’s squad did not run over a tough group of Yellow Jackets as CAK had to fight for a 6-0 victory.
“I thought we gave great effort on the defensive side of the ball,” Cherokee head coach Brian Pankey said. “We did a good job tackling and wrapping up their ball carriers.
“We learned tonight that we can play with anybody. CAK’s unbeaten and hadn’t really had a close game until tonight. Take away a couple of mistakes and we could have won 6-0.”
Cherokee served notice early that the Warriors wouldn’t have an easy time of it as CAK’s first drive of the night netted just three yards and ended in a punt.
Cherokee, however, was also unable to mount a drive as they punted the ball right back to the Warriors after a three-and-out.
CAK started their next drive at their own 41 and picked up a pair of first downs before Cherokee’s defense stiffened. Sacks by Brody Roberts and Tanner Moore along with a block-in-the-back penalty on the Warriors allowed the Jackets to take over on downs at their own 40.
Cherokee was again unable to move the chains and CAK came up with the first big play of the night when Josh Smith returned the Jacket punt 35 yards to the Cherokee 41.
Cherokee’s defense again appeared to hold as CAK brought out the punt team on fourth-and-nine, but the Warriors executed a perfect fake and picked up a first down at the Jacket 30. From there, the Warriors needed six more plays before talented QB Charlie High connected with Smith from three yards out to give the Warriors a 6-0 lead with 18.5 seconds left in the half.
CAK’s two-point conversion pass was no good.
Cherokee’s first offensive possession of the second half was another three-and-out then the Warriors put together a long drive that ate up a lot of time and covered a lot of yards, but it did not add points to the scoreboard.
Starting from their own 26, the Warriors ran 14 plays and made it to the Cherokee 12 before turning the ball over on downs.
Cherokee took over possession with less than six minutes remaining in the contest and the Jackets picked up their initial first down of the contest two plays later when QB Brandon Ott hooked up with Jordan Huddleston for 22 yards and a first down at the Jacket 34.
Cherokee would lose seven yards on their next three plays as they were forced to punt the ball back to the Warriors with 3:45 left to play.
From there, CAK did what they did the rest of the evening and that was grind out the clock for the victory.
For the night, the Warriors ran 45 plays on offense compared to only 15 for the Jackets. CAK out gained the Jackets 167-28 in total yardage.
“We didn’t have the ball much and when we did we couldn’t do much with it,” Pankey said. “I know we ran a couple of plays wrong and that didn’t help us get things going.”
High led the Warriors with 18 carries for 60 yards and he was 6 of 8 through the air for 55 yards. Smith added 52 yards on 18 carries.
Cherokee hits the field again Monday when they host Oliver Springs at Dr. Nat Sugarman Memorial Field.