As Etowah’s Robbie Knox, who took over the quarterback position when senior Reeves Johnson was injured a little over three weeks ago, made his third start of the season for the Eagles, Cherokee began the game with regular starter Spencer Ashley under center.
Ashley didn’t last long, however. With less than 3 minutes remaining in the first quarter, he went down clutching his left leg after running for a 12-yard gain.
Running back Hunter Wingfield took over for Ashley for the remainder of the game, and the complexion of the Warriors’ offense changed.
“Losing Spencer was very critical,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said after the Warriors fell to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in Region 5AAAAAA. “It was especially critical because he took all the repetitions at the quarterback position the entire week. Hunter hadn’t repped a lick at quarterback. We had to condense our play-calling.”
Despite Wingfield’s lack of preparation at quarterback, he did manage to give Cherokee a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run. He finished the night with 128 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Wingfield’s run came after Etowah (4-3, 3-1) opened the scoring with a 13-yard run by Knox.
Cherokee’s first points of the game came later, when Knox was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Wingfield’s lack of practice at the quarterback position was evident when Cherokee took to the air, however, with the junior 6-of-14 for only 76 yards passing.
After Cherokee took the lead on Wingfield’s 1-yard run, Etowah responded with a bit of trickery on its next possession, taking the lead for good at the beginning of the second quarter.
After moving the ball to Cherokee’s 48-yard line, Etowah seemingly ran a reverse, giving the ball to wide receiver Ayden Bonilla.
Rather than run it, Bonilla threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to an open Bryce Coroi to put the Eagles ahead 13-9.
The Eagles added to their lead roughly 6 minutes later, when Brandon Engle ran it in from 2 yards out.
Though Cherokee managed to move the ball to Etowah’s 17-yard line in its final drive of the quarter, the Warriors ran out of time, and the Eagles took a 20-9 lead into the half.
Two field goals from Etowah’s Ryan Hopper proved to be the only scores of the second half, and the Eagles went on to earn their fourth win of the season.
Knox finished the night 7-for-11 with 122 passing yards and one rushing touchdown.
“Our defense bent, but didn’t break (Friday),” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “We gave up a few yards, but you win by keeping the other team from scoring points, and that’s what we did (Friday).”
Though Svehla was pleased with the Eagles’ third region win, he was already looking ahead to next week’s matchup against archrival Woodstock.
“We’re going to enjoy this win for about two hours, and then start getting ready for Woodstock next week,” Svehla said. “That is where our focus is going to be.”
As Etowah will take on Woodstock at the Wolverine Den next week, Cherokee will travel to Roswell looking to salvage success at the tail end of its season.