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Turnovers are often the biggest stat of the game in football, and that was the case Thursday night as the Cherokee Yellow Jackets turned the ball over five times in dropping a 34-14 decision against Clinton in the Clinch Valley Conference Class AAA Championship Game.
“Turnovers are lethal when they happen to you,” Cherokee head coach Wade Creswell said following the game. “One of (former University of Tennessee football coach) General (Robert) Neyland’s maxims is the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. We made too many mistakes tonight.”
Cherokee played Thursday’s title game without star RB Maurice Lane. Coach Creswell admitted that any time you lose your best play it hurts, but he didn’t think it cost his team the game.
“He’s a great player that has a major impact on our team, but I thought we could overcome it,” he said. “I thought if we played mistake free then we could have won, but we weren’t able to do that.”
Even without Lane, Cherokee struck first and opened the scoring with Tommy Jordan scoring on a six-yard run to give the Jackets a 6-0 first quarter lead.
Cherokee’s two-point try was no good.
Clinton, however, had a star of their own as the Jacket defense had trouble containing Hawk RB J’Quan Thomas. Thomas and the Hawks scored twice in the first half and would lead 14-6 at halftime.
The third period would see the game get away from Cherokee as the Hawks put two more touchdowns on the board to make it 28-6.
Cherokee did cut the lead in half in the fourth quarter when Matt Spellman scored on a three-yard run.
Jordan added the two-point conversion to make the score 28-14.
Clinton would score again to make the final score 34-14.
Thursday’s loss was the first for the Jackets in two years. In 2011, the Jackets went a perfect 9-0 on their way to the Clinch Valley Conference Class AAA Championship. This year, the Jackets ran their winning streak to 17 games before finishing the season with an 8-1 record.
“This was a successful season in more ways than wins and losses,” Creswell said. “I saw a lot of our guys grow up this year. This has been a fantastic group of kids to work with and they have a bright future in front of them no matter what they do.”