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Beating a good team twice in one season is never easy, but that's just what the Rockwood Middle School Tigers did Thursday as Scott Harvey's squad defeated Cherokee 14-8 to capture the Clinch Valley Conference Championship.
Thursday's victory capped off a perfect 9-0 season for the Tigers, but perhaps more important than that, it helped ease the pain of a controversial loss to Jefferson in last year's title game.
“What a great season,” Tiger head coach Scott Harvey said. “Ever since the championship game last year, this team has been on a mission to get back to the championship game and win it. I am happy for all of our players and coaches for all the hard work they've put in. My hat's also off to Cherokee, they kept it close and played hard all the way through.”
For Cherokee, Thursday's loss was only their second of the season (7-2), but both losses would come against the Tigers in the final two weeks of the season.
“I'm proud of what we did this season,” Cherokee head coach Brian Pankey said. “Rockwood's a very good football team, but they had to earn it tonight.”
The first half of Thursday's contest was a defensive battle in which neither team scored.
Cherokee had the ball twice in the first half and picked up a pair of first downs, but never crossed midfield.
Rockwood also had the ball two times and did march deep into Cherokee territory on both occasions, but they also would not score.
Cherokee's defense made a great goal line stand on Rockwood's second possession.
After a 49-yard run from Kyron Inman, the Tigers had the ball on the Cherokee 4 and seemed ready to score, but a pair of stops near the line of scrimmage then a great play on a reverse left the Tigers facing fourth-and-goal from the 14. Rockwood tried a halfback pass from there, but the pass was picked off as the first half came to a close.
Rockwood opened the second half on offense and turned to Inman to lead them down the field.
Starting from the 32, the Tigers put together a 9-play scoring drive to take the lead. Inman carried eight times in the drive for 64 yards. Inman's eighth carry was a 2-yard scoring run.
Inman also added the two-point conversion to make the score 8-0 with 3:45 left to play in the third period.
After an exchange of punts, Rockwood defense set up the next score as LB Brant Mitchell picked off a pass at the Jacket 28.
Drake Long scored two plays later on a 24-yard run as Rockwood held a 14-0 lead with 4:29 left in the contest.
Rockwood's two-point try was no good.
Cherokee, however, wasn't finished just yet as Malcolm Lane returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yard for a score then Lane was on the receiving end of Paul Bolden's two-point pass as the Jackets closed to with 14-8 with 4:14 left to play.
Cherokee's defense then came up with a huge stop as they took over on downs at their own 47 with 2:06 left to play.
Cherokee immediately went to the air and completed a pair of short passes, but they would turn the ball over on downs after a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
Rockwood took a pair of knees to run out the clock and start their celebration.
Rockwood ended the evening with 184 yards of total offense on 36 plays.
Inman was the workhorse as he carried the ball 18 times for 153 yards and one TD. Long added 34 yards rushing and one touchdown for the Tigers.
Cherokee was limited to 29 yards offense on 20 snaps.
Inman and Mitchell picked off passes for the Tigers.
Rushing- Jones 7-22, Davis 2-(-1), Lane 5-5, Bolden 1-(-3).
Passing- Bolden 2-5 for 6 yards with 2 INTs., Jones 0-1.
Receiving- Lane 2-6.
Rushing- Inman 18-153 with 1 TD, Long 7-34 with 1 TD, Mitchell 5-4, Matyjasik 1-(-11), Team 2-(-2).
Passing- Inman 1-3 for 6 yards with 1 INT.
Receiving- Matyjasik 1-6.