The Warriors (5-4, 3-3 Region 5AAAAAA) also need a little help, though. Specifically, they need Lassiter to beat Etowah and Milton to beat Woodstock to avoid a convoluted system of tiebreakers. If there is a three-way tie between Etowah, Cherokee and Milton, it could ultimately come down to winning percentage against other Class AAAAAA teams, of which Cherokee would be on the short end.
But first and foremost, the Warriors just need to take care of business tonight.
Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said his team will play to beat Wheeler (2-7, 0-6), and when the game is over, that’s when they will start checking the scores of the other region games.
“We have tried to stress that none of the other stuff matters if we don’t take care of our business, and that is winning the game (tonight),” Shaw said. “There is no sense paying attention or worrying about what anyone else is doing when we have to worry about ourselves and get the win.
“If we are to come out on the winning side (tonight), then we will check the scoreboard and see where we stand.”
Shaw likes the position his team is in. Aside from not already being assured a playoff spot, he doesn’t see how things could be much more favorable.
Cherokee is going up against a Wheeler team that hasn’t won since the first week of September. The Wildcats also had to deal with the midseason dismissal of quarterback Elijah Staley, a two-sport star who had committed to play both football and basketball at Mississippi State.
“With the cards that we have been dealt for the final week, I think we have a pretty good hand,” Shaw said. “The bottom line is we have to worry about Wheeler and be ready to play.”
If practice is any indication, the Warriors are ready. Shaw said his players are coming off one of their best weeks of practice they’ve had all season. Plus, quarterback Spencer Ashley, who left midway through last week’s loss to Milton with a shoulder injury, has been cleared to return.
“We have had a great week of practice all the way around,” Shaw said. “We are back full-strength again.”
If Cherokee wins tonight and the other scenarios don’t fall in the Warriors’ favor, Shaw said the season would still be a success by his standards.
A year ago, the team finished 1-9. Now, it has a chance to finish 6-4, and it’s already assured of not have a losing record for the first time since 2007.
“From where we were last year, to now having the chance to get the sixth win of the season, it would be a great accomplishment for our team,” Shaw said. “We are making progress, regardless of the playoffs or not. You always want to finish the season on a winning note as well.”
Still, Shaw said it won’t be easy to get that sixth win. Wheeler, despite to poor record, has lost each of its last four region games by a touchdown or less. The Wildcats led late in their games with Walton and Woodstock.
Wheeler is coached by Mike Collins, a Canton native who played for Cherokee in the early 1990s and later returned to the school as an assistant to former Warriors coach Brian Dameron.
“We know they are a good football team with some really explosive players,” Shaw said. “Coach Collins does a great job, so we will have our hands full. That is what we have tried to stress to the kids. We have to worry about ourselves, not what anyone else is doing.”