And they’ll get the chance to help their cause Friday, when they welcome West Forsyth to Tommy Baker Field.
Dameron said the four games at the beginning of the season are somewhat of a tuneup before the Region 5AAAAA schedule, and he has been pushing that fact with his team. Cherokee (1-1) lost 38-14 to Milton last week, but the Warriors’ veteran coach said the game was a good test of what the team may see down the road.
“Milton really is like Walton,” Dameron said of the Warriors’ region rival from east Cobb. “We are just trying to get up to speed with what we will see in our region, and that Milton game should help us when we face Walton later.”
Cherokee only trailed 17-14 in the fourth quarter of last week’s game before penalties, turnovers and three unanswered touchdowns helped Milton put the game out of reach.
“We need to hang on to the ball and take advantage of mistakes better this week, like we did in the first week of the season,” Dameron said, alluding to the Warriors’ season-opening win against North Forsyth.
North Forsyth was a postseason team last season, as was West Forsyth and Cherokee’s opponent for next week, Mill Creek.
“Three of the four teams we play out of region went to the playoffs last season, and they are all loaded with very talented players,” Dameron said. “West Forsyth is one of those playoff teams, and coach (Frank) Hepler does a good job running that Wing-T over there. When you have inexperienced guys out there, it is on-the-job training in the early weeks.”
Hepler said West Forsyth is preparing for the meat of his team’s schedule in Region 6AAAAA.
“We are not looking at winning and losing,” he said. “We are trying to improve so that, once we get into the region schedule, we will be at our best.”
Dameron said West Forsyth will challenge the Warriors, but that’s what the non-region games are for.
“That is why we schedule tough games at the beginning of the season,” he said. “We want a test.”
Cherokee got a test from the Wolverines last season in a 42-17 loss, but Dameron doesn’t believe his team has put much thought into that game. He said the team is focused on the future.
“We are starting some sophomores, and the only way you can prepare young guys for region play is to face talented folks in the early part of the season,” Dameron said. “We want to get back to where we were in ’03 and ’04, when we were making trips to the quarterfinals, and playing tough competition is how we are going to do that.”
Dameron said continued production from first-year starting quarterback Mason Keyt will help the Warriors achieve success.
“The triple option is not a glamorous offense, but our quarterback has done a great job running it so far,” Dameron said. “Mason has scored four touchdowns in the first two games and really done well in his first year as the starter. They kids believe in him.”
Dameron was quick to say that Keyt is not alone in leading the team. Running back Andrew Blalock has also run well, but the offensive line has been key to the Warriors’ success.
“Our table has been set by that offensive line, anchored by senior center Hunter Collett,” he said. “And our defense is anchored by senior linebacker Will Shubert.”