That victory against the Chiefs almost never happened, however, as a handful of big plays from Sequoyah’s offense had Cherokee trailing 28-24 after the third quarter. The Warriors, however, managed to prevail with a pair of their own big touchdown plays in the final period.
Now, as Cherokee (1-1) prepares to take on a 2-0 North Forsyth team, Shaw feels it’s vital for his squad to eliminate the mistakes that allowed Sequoyah to gain yardage in chunks.
To the coach, that starts with the defense knowing exactly where they are supposed to be on the field.
“Last week, against Sequoyah, a lot of their big plays came when we didn’t line up correctly,” Shaw said. “Just lining up in the right position against the formation that (North Forsyth brings) will be very important. If we can get lined up properly before the snap, then we’ll be in good shape.”
The Raiders also operate out of just a few offensive formations, which makes Shaw believe that his defense will have an easier time getting set in the right position.
Shaw attributed much of his young defense’s struggles with adapting to a new 4-3 system, which Shaw brought with him from Etowah.
“The team is playing in a completely new scheme, and learning it is something that is going to take them a while,” Shaw said. “Our guys don’t have a lot of game experience in the 4-3. They didn’t start off playing in it in the ninth grade. They’re having to learn it right now.”
Fortunately for Shaw, Cherokee won’t have to change much defensively against North Forsyth, as the Raiders use a run-first approach, much like Sequoyah did.
The Raiders don’t keep it so simple on defense, however, and run a 3-3 stack, which is meant to confuse and pressure an opposing team’s offensive line by bringing a variety of blitzes from the linebackers.
“They’re going to be moving every single play to try and cause chaos,” Shaw said of the North Forsyth defense. “They are going to give our offensive line something a little different from our usual blitz pickups and make things a bit more complex.”
When asked how he felt about his team traveling for the first time this season, Shaw said he was actually relieved that the game wasn’t taking place at the friendly confines of Tommy Baker Field.
Cherokee actually earned its lone win of the 2011 season at North Forsyth, though it came under the watch of former coach Brian Dameron.
“Honestly, it is a lot less stressful to play away,” Shaw said. “You don’t have to worry about the festivities that are going on in your stadium. There’s less distraction. It lets us just worry about going out and competing as hard as we can. Hopefully, we’ll come back with a win.”