Warriors quarterback Spencer Ashley connected with Blace Brown for two touchdown passes in the final 93 seconds, to lead Cherokee past Woodstock 35-27 at Tommy Baker Field.
“Wow, what a game,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said following the win. “That’s the best all-around football game we’ve played in a year-and-a-half. Offense, defense and special teams all played great. I’m so proud of my kids.”
The Region 5AAAAAA win gave the Warriors (3-3, 1-2) their first region win since Nov. 5, 2010 — snapping a stretch of 15 straight setbacks. It was also Cherokee’s first win over Woodstock (2-4, 1-2) since 2004.
Leading 21-7 for much of the first three quarters, Cherokee leaned on a bend- but-don’t-break defense to keep Woodstock out of the end zone.
With Woodstock’s spread offense moving well between the 30s — totaling 22 first downs and 482 yards of offense on the night — the Warrior defense played their best with their backs against the wall.
Cherokee forced Woodstock to turn the ball over on downs eight times — including five stops in the first half alone — and ended seven Wolverine drives inside Cherokee’s 35-yard line.
“Our best defensive game since I’ve been here — they were great all night,” Shaw said. “Our guys sucked it up. We have so many guys dinged on defense, but they played their fannies off (Friday).”
Woodstock finally ended its fourth-down woes late in the third quarter, when Justin Agner slipped a tackle in the backfield and snuck inside the pylon for a 1-yard touchdown run that cut Cherokee’s lead to 21-14.
Aaron Robinson rumbled 38 yards on Woodstock’s first possession of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 21-all, and Agner found Nick Cable wide-open down the seam for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 3:22 to play to give the Wolverines a 27-21 advantage.
But Ashley, who was an efficient 19-for-27 passing and threw three touchdowns to Brown, was 5-of-6 on the ensuing drive. The Warriors’ march, which included a clutch 16-yard pass to Andrew Harris on fourth-and-6, covered 66 yards in just under 2 minutes and was capped off by a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 1:33 to play in the game.
Gary Dubiel’s extra point gave Cherokee a 28-27 it did not relinquish.
Ashley and Brown connected again from 9 yards out with 44 seconds to play after Woodstock threw four straight incompletions.
“We just didn’t execute well (Friday) on some of those keys plays in the first half,” Woodstock coach Brent Budde said. “Defensively, we gave up some explosive plays, but we came back and fought hard in the second half. I’m so proud of them for coming back and getting the lead. You just have to give Cherokee some credit for making big plays late.”
Cherokee opened the scoring on a 4-yard pass from Ashley to Brown, and Woodstock answered with a 78-yard pass from Agner to Alex Motsinger early in the first quarter.
Harris gave Cherokee a 14-7 lead on a highlight-filled 80-yard kick return touchdown, and the Warriors took a 21-7 lead on a 6-yard scamper by running back Anthony Trimble with seconds to play in the first quarter.
Brown led all receivers with 149 yards on 12 catches. Motsinger led Woodstock with 122 yards on four receptions.
Both schools will enjoy a bye week next Friday before returning to action October 18. Cherokee will play host to Etowah while Woodstock travels to Roswell.