E.A. Sports Today

Warriors storm Weaver

Cherokee County takes it to their former coach, opens big lead before thunderstorms chase everyone home
By Shannon Fagan
Special to East Alabama Sports Today
CENTRE – Storm clouds brewed in the distance before kickoff at Warrior Stadium, but it was home team that provided the lightning before the clouds did against winless Weaver.
Cherokee County was clicking on all cylinders against the Bearcats, coached by former Warriors offensive coordinator Justin Taylor. The Warriors scored touchdowns all seven times they had the football in nearly two quarters of action before the game was called due to thunderstorms in a 49-6 victory.
“They were ready to roll,” Warriors coach Jacob Kelley said. “They had a good week at practice. Coach Taylor had been here for so long and he had a relationship with a lot of these guys. They kind of got up for playing their old coach, but our focus was playing a team that beat them pretty handily last year (41-14).  That was more our message, controlling what we do and getting better, getting ready for what’s coming.”
It took just one play for the Warriors (3-2) to take the lead. After Weaver punted on its opening possession, senior running back Julian Bynum dashed 80 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore kicker Daniel Mejia’s extra point provided the 7-0 lead with 9:24 remaining in the first quarter.
“JuJu (Bynum) took a little sweep to the left and he had a great edge block,” Kelley said. “Kendrick (Fife) did a great job of leading up and the receivers did a great job of giving him lanes. He made a couple of great cuts and kind of sprung the energy from there.
“One thing we wanted to do was play fast, and tempo-wise we were good. We were trying to get plays going off fast and firing before they could get set up. I was pleased offensively, just from the overall speed we played at and the execution I think was there.”
Cherokee County’s defense set up the Warriors’ next score. Freshman tackle Ryon Dunn blocked his second punt in as many games, giving Cherokee County the ball at the Weaver 3. One play later, sophomore all-purpose player Damien Ramsey connected with Connor Elrod for another score that made it 14-0 with 6:16 to go in the opening quarter.
After the second blocked punt of the night, Cherokee County quickly made it 21-0 on junior quarterback Slade Alexander’s touchdown run.
“We work a lot on special teams,” Kelley said. “We try to get an idea on what they’re trying to do and try to scheme a little bit and figure out what we can do to put us in a good position to get field position, to get big plays if we see another team is doing something we feel like we can expose. The big thing is those guys up front are giving tremendous effort on getting a push and just rushing hard to get to it.”
Weaver (0-5) finally found some life about it following a big return by senior running back Davontae Hilliard. Hilliard scored two plays later on a 56-yard run. LaDre Whitson’s extra point was short, keeping the score at 21-6 with 2:56 left in the first quarter. Hilliard led the Bearcats with 74 yards on nine carries.
But on the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors’ Whit Johnson dashed 79 yards for a touchdown to kill any momentum Weaver might have had. Mejia’s PAT pushed the Warrior lead to 28-6.
Alexander intercepted Bearcat junior quarterback Taylor Thompson on Weaver’s next possession. Two plays after the turnover, Fife found the end zone from seven yards out to put Cherokee County in front 35-6 near the end of the first quarter.
By that point, a steady rain had taken over, but the Warriors didn’t let that slow them down. They forced a Bearcat fumble inside the Weaver 10. Three plays after the fumble, Ramsey scored on a 6-yard run to make the score 42-6.
Another Bearcat punt yielded one final Warrior touchdown before the lightning delay. Johnson scored on a 12-yard run with 8:33 remaining in the second quarter. Officials sent the teams to their respective locker rooms at the 4:42 mark following a Warrior fumble on a Bearcat punt. They never came back on the field after an hour delay.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” Kelley said of the lightning-shortened game. “It was a great crowd prior to the monsoon, but it’s good for these guys. This is one they really, really wanted. They played great tonight for the time we were out there. It’s just good to see them have a great time.”
Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald

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