Behind big nights from seniors Spencer Ashley and Andrew Harris on offense, and an impressive effort on defense, Cherokee was nothing short of dominant in a 42-7 win at Chattahoochee.
“A lot of these guys in this senior class went through the lean years — 1-9 and 5-5,” third-year Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “We thought that Year 3 would be an over-the-hump year, and I’m really proud of how we came out and executed. We talked about setting a good tone for the season, and we sure did that (Friday).”
The 35-point win was Cherokee’s most lopsided victory since 2006, when it beat Woodland-Bartow 37-0. For Chattahoochee, it was its most lopsided loss since 1999.
Ashley, a 2,200-yard passer last fall in Shaw’s spread offense, looked the part of a third-year starter from the opening snap — going 9-of-10 for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the opening quarter alone, and finishing the night 27-of-32 for 308 yards and four touchdowns.
Both early touchdowns landed in the hands of Harris, who seamlessly stepped into the role of Ashley’s favorite target after the graduation of Blace Brown. Harris caught 14 balls for 226 yards in the game and scored touchdowns from 36, 18 and 9 yards out.
“Those two are very special players, and they both had great offseasons,” Shaw said. “They have been throwing to each other for three years in all the 7-on-7s we do, and they have established a really good connection — a connection we plan on riding this season.”
Doing most of their damage in the air in the first quarter, the Warriors started the second quarter with a 14-0 lead and took to the ground to extend their lead to 28-0 by halftime — scoring an 8-yard scamper from Vance Taylor and a 21-yard dash up the middle by Bryson Perry.
Ashley connected with Harris for a 36-yard touchdown, and with Montrell Washington for a 5-yard score, in the third quarter to push the margin to 42-0 before the starters were pulled.
Cherokee’s defense, which only held one opponent under 21 points last year, impressed, too. The much-improved unit forced three fumbles — with recoveries by Nathan Dent, Christopher Mancuso and Jamori Fox — and limited Chattahoochee’s offense to just 172 total yards.
“We gave up 30 points a game last year, and it’s nice to come out and almost get a shutout,” Shaw said of his defense. “We have some returning guys back, and our coaches are doing some different things schematically. We really thought we had a chance to be a special defense this year, and (Friday) was a great start for that.”
Chattahoochee scored its lone touchdown with 4:39 remaining in the game, on a 9-yard pass from David Nicolette to Isaac Kinsey.