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The Cherokee Yellow Jackets closed out the 2013 season in style Thursday night as Wade Creswell’s squad knocked off Oliver Springs 32-20 at Dr. Nat Sugarman Memorial Field.
“I’m really pleased,” Jacket head coach Wade Creswell said following the victory. “We beat a real tough Oliver Springs team tonight. We were able to dig down deep when it counted the most. We’ve come a long way this year. I don’t know if we would have won if we had played them early in the season.”
“That was a heck of a middle school football game,” Bobcat head coach Larry Green added. “Coach Creswell has a fine team. They made plays when they need to tonight and we didn’t.”
A big play occurred on the opening kickoff as Oliver Springs fumbled the ball, allowing Cherokee to take over at the Bobcat 34 to start the game.
Cherokee scored five plays later on a 10-yard run from Matt Spellman to make the score 6-0 with 6:13 left in the opening quarter.
Cherokee’s two-point try was no good.
Oliver Springs answered quickly. Sparked by a 40-yard return from Logan Kelly, the Bobcats drove 38 yards in eight plays with Kelly scoring on a five-yard run. Kelly also added the conversion as Oliver Springs led 8-6 with 2:42 left in the first quarter.
Both defenses would then come up with big plays.
Cherokee drove to the Bobcat 22 on their following possession before Michael Lowe picked off a pass at the Bobcat nine. Oliver Springs then drove all the way to the Cherokee four before Kelly was dropped in the backfield on fourth-and-goal.
The Jackets responded with the longest drive of the night as they marched 91 yards in seven plays with Spellman tossing a six-yard scoring pass to Brandon Plemons to make the score 12-8 with 56 seconds left in the half.
Cherokee’s two-point try was no good.
The Bobcats crossed midfield before halftime and took a shot deep, but Plemons picked off the pass, leaving the score 12-8 at halftime.
The scoring pace picked up in the second half as Spellman returned the opening kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown. He was then on the receiving end of a two-point pass from Plemons to make the score 20-8 only 14 seconds into the second half.
Oliver Springs answered with an eight-play, 63-yard scoring drive that would see Kelly score from four yards out to make the score 20-14 with 3:42 left in the third period.
Oliver Springs’ two-point try was no good.
The shootout continued as Cherokee scored five plays later on a 10-yard run from Nathan Jones that capped a 61-yard drive. The two-point try was no good, leaving the score 26-14 with 1:57 left in the third period.
Benji Headrick set up the score with a 40-yard run.
Not to be outdone, Oliver Springs came storming back with an eight-play, 69-yard scoring drive that ended in a one-yard sneak from Hunter Melton that cut the score to 26-20 with 6:37 left in the game after a failed two-point attempt.
Jonathan Woodward set up the score, carrying four times for 46 yards in the drive.
The Bobcat defense then came up with a huge play as they recovered a Jacket fumble at the Bobcat 41 with 5:17 to go.
Oliver Springs crossed midfield on a 12-yard run by Kelly, but a holding penalty and a big fourth down sack from Trevor Sexton killed the Bobcats momentum.
The Jackets put the game away two plays later when Headrick broke free for a 40-yard touchdown to make the score 32-20.
The statistics were almost even on the evening as Cherokee out gained Oliver Springs in total yardage, 255-252.
Cherokee rolled up 205 yards on the ground with Headrick (5-105, 1 TD), Jones (10-66, 1 TD) and Spellman (7-40, 1 TD) leading the way. Spellman and Plemons combined for another 49 yards through the air.
“Our identity this season has been to be a throwing team,” Creswell said. “But we wanted to make sure that we established a run game tonight. We ran it so well that we never went back to it (passing).”
All of Oliver Springs’ 252 yards came on the ground with Kelly (24-113, 2 TDs) and Woodward (12-108) each topping the 100-yard mark.
With the victory, Cherokee ends their season with a 6-2 record.
Oliver Springs also has a 6-2 record, but despite the loss, the Bobcats still have one more game to play as they travel to Spring City Thursday night for the Clinch Valley Conference AA Championship. The Bulldogs beat the Bobcats earlier in the season in a close game at Springs City.
“They’ve got a great team with a great tailback,” Green said of Spring City. “We did a good job against him in the first game for a half, but he broke an 8-yard run on us in the fourth quarter and that was the difference.
“We’ll need to control the football, grind out first downs and keep their offense off the field to be successful.”
Oliver Springs Statistics
Rushing- Kelly 24-113 with 2 TDs, Woodward 12-108, Davis 1-50, Melton 5-(-11), Lowe 2-5, Team 1-(-13).
Passing- Melton 0-2 with 1 INT.
Rushing- Headrick 5-105 with 1 TD, Spellman 7-40 with 1 TD, Jones 10-66 with 1 TD, Inman 1-(-1), Team 1-(-5).
Passing- Plemons 1-3 for 14 yards with 1 INT, Spellman 3-3 for 35 yards with 1 TD.
Receiving- Plemons 3-35 with 1 TD, Spellman 1-14.