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By GOOSE LINDSAY
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned defensive battle and that’s what the fans at Dr. Nat Sugarman Field in Kingston witnessed Tuesday night as Cherokee Middle School used a one-yard run by Brandon Ott with 1:04 remaining to give the Jackets a 6-0 victory over visiting Harriman.
“This was a classic,” Harriman head coach Baron Tapp said. “I thought we played really good, a lot better than the last two games and we won those games. I think we can take a lot out of this game. We played hard and we didn’t make a lot of fundamental mistakes.”
“I thought we played well in the fourth quarter,” Cherokee head coach Brian Pankey added. “For three quarters we bent but we didn’t break on defense. Then there at the end we got a big run by Will (Crowe) to set up the score. We made a play when we needed it.
“I thought Harriman played really hard. They were the more physical team tonight; they outmanned us up front.”
While neither team put up a lot of points, both teams did move the ball well enough to put pressure on the opposing defenses.
Harriman opened the game on offense and picked up three first downs in driving inside Cherokee’s 30. However, on fourth-and-nine from the Cherokee 33, the Jacket defense stiffened and stopped Harriman’s Lucas Lunsford one yard short of a first down.
Lunsford did have a big first series as he carried the ball five times for 36 yards.
Cherokee’s first drive started with a bang as Crowe ripped off a 38-yard gain, but the Jacket drive ended three plays later when Chris Works intercepted an Ott pass and he returned the ball 35 yards to midfield.
Harriman would use an 11-yard run by Lunsford and a 20-yard pass from Hunter Jenkins to Trey Pack to reach the Cherokee 17, but a holding penalty helped kill the drive as Cherokee took over on downs at the 23.
Cherokee advanced the ball to midfield on their next possession, but a Lunsford sack forced a fumble that was recovered by the Devils at the Cherokee 43. Harriman got as close as the Cherokee 16, but with time running out in the half, the Devils were forced to go to the air and three straight incomplete passes ended the threat.
The second half opened with neither team picking up a first down in the first seven minutes of the third period, but Harriman nearly found the end zone with their initial first down of the half.
Facing third-and-seven from their own 32, Harriman’s Casey Coon took a double handoff and exploded down the right sideline toward the goal line. Coon would race 68 yards untouched into the end zone, but he was ruled to have stepped out at the Cherokee 38 in a play that occurred right in front of the Harriman bench.
The drive ended four plays later with a punt, but coach Tapp refused to blame the officials for what he feels was a missed call.
“I thought he was in, but the official didn’t and that’s all that matters,” Tapp said. “I’m not going to sit here and whine about it either because this was a great game and the officials did a great job.”
Harriman’s punt backed Cherokee up to their own eight and three plays later, the Jackets were faced with a huge decision with less than five minutes to play. Facing fourth-and-inches from their own 17, coach Pankey rolled the dice and went for the first down. The gamble paid off as Ott kept for four yards and a first down.
“There was no doubt right there that we were going for it,” Pankey said. “If you can’t get a couple of inches in that situation then you don’t need to play football.”
From that point on, the Jackets turned to Crowe who ripped off a 15-yard run and an eight-yard run before taking a sweep left 54 yards to the Harriman two.
It took three plays from there, but Ott finally scored from the one on a sneak to make the score 6-0 with 1:04 left to play.
Cherokee’s two-point try was no good.
Harriman moved the ball into Cherokee territory thanks to a couple of nice runs from Lunsford, but they never threatened the end zone as Cherokee’s defense ended the game with a sack.
Harriman ended the night with 169 yards of total offense on 45 plays. Lunsford led the way with 99 yards rushing on 17 carries while Coon added nine carries for 46 yards.
Cherokee had 156 yards offense on 24 snaps. Crowe did the most damage as he ended the evening with 121 yards rushing on 10 attempts.
Cherokee will host CAK on Tuesday while Harriman travels to Wartburg on Thursday.