Coming out of their bye weeks, both teams — which have each won 14 times in the all-time series — suffered heavy defeats two weeks ago, with Cherokee (1-5, 0-3) falling 28-0 to Woodstock and Etowah (3-3, 2-1) being overwhelmed by Milton 59-27 at home.
Both coaches were disappointed with their respective team’s performance in their previous games, and they expressed their desire to get back in the win column.
“We were definitely disappointed with our performance last time,” Cherokee’s Josh Shaw said. “It was our worst loss of the season, and it has left a bad taste in our mouth for the last two weeks. We need to come out and respond this week.”
Etowah’s Dave Svehla expressed much the same reaction.
“When our game against Milton was over — before we even left the field — we told our players to put that game on the shelf,” he said. “We have thought very little about the Milton game the last two weeks. Our focus has just been on Cherokee.”
Despite its loss to Milton, Etowah still has a strong chance to make the state playoffs, especially if it can get a win against Cherokee.
“It would mean everything to get a win (tonight),” Svehla said. “If we do, we’ll be 3-1 in the region, and, right now, that is the best that we can hope for.”
For the Eagles to emerge victorious tonight, Svehla feels that they will have to ground the Warriors’ aerial attack, which starts with stopping Cherokee quarterback Spencer Ashley.
“(Ashley) is a young kid, but he has a good arm and seems to make plays in difficult situations,” Svehla said. “He makes plays that other kids wouldn’t be able to make. One of our coaches compared him to Tim Tebow.”
When asked whether he planned on putting pressure on Ashley in much the same way that Woodstock did two weeks ago, Svehla was mum on what his game plan would be.
Regardless, Shaw, a former Etowah assistant, expects the Eagles to bring their defenders to counter Ashley.
“We think that they will come at us with pressure,” Shaw said. “It is what every other team has done against us this season, so we expect (Etowah) will, too. We’ll find out in the first few plays what they’re going to do. Hopefully, whatever they bring at us won’t come as a surprise.”
After its most recent loss, Cherokee has spent the last two weeks practicing the fundamentals.
“We went back to the basics these last few weeks,” he said. “We want to get back to what we were doing at the beginning of the year.”
Though the Warriors’ hopes of making the playoffs are slim, Shaw is more concerned with his team getting its first region win.
“Right now, us and Roswell are the only teams without a win in the region,” Shaw said. “Considering that we are playing them soon, we definitely don’t want to fall to 0-4. Our kids understand how important this game is for us.”