E.A. Sports Today

Down to the wire

Cherokee County makes two fourth-down red-zone stops in the fourth quarter, holds off Munford for big region win

Cherokee County head coach Jacob Kelley (L) celebrates on the sidelines after his Warriors sealed their 28-26 victory over Munford Thursday night.

Thursday’s scores
Sparkman 31, Bob Jones 0
Buckhorn 51, Columbia 0
Park Crossing 22, Sidney Lanier 6
Cherokee County 28, Munford 26
Vigor 19, Escambia County 0
Madison Academy 1, Randolph 0, forfeit
Childersburg 42, Beulah 14
B.B. Comer 24, Horseshoe Bend 16
Randolph County 41, Fayetteville 0
Cedar Bluff 56, Woodville 28
Winterboro 48, Talladega County Central 6

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MUNFORD — Cherokee County football coach Jacob Kelley told his players during the week Thursday night’s matchup with Munford was going to be a 48-minute affair.

And don’t you know it took every last one of them to decide the issue.

The Warriors earned a big Class 4A Region 4 victory when they made two fourth-down red-zone stops in the fourth quarter to hold off the Lions 28-26.

“We told them it was going to be a 48-minute war,” Kelley said. “We didn’t know how close to 48 it was going to be and it turned out to be every dad-gum minute of it.”

The Warriors never lost the lead after Cade Hopper threw an 87-yarrd touchdown pass to Whit Johnson on their first play of the game, but had to turn the Lions back on fourth-and-inches from the 5 with 6:21 to play and then secured their fifth win in a row when Damien Ramsey batted down a fourth-down Jay Tuck pass from inside the 10 with 41.3 seconds left.

Those two empty drives covered 57 and 65 yards.

“We gave up some plays in the fourth quarter and a third quarter,” Kelley said, “but we played the red area pretty dad-gum good.”

Tuck threw three passes to the end zone in the final series. T.D. Parker got his hands on the second one, but couldn’t hold it as he hit the ground. On the last play, he rolled to his right and threw somewhat side-armed. Ramsey followed the play and got his big paw up to bat down the ball and end the Lions’ hopes.

Tuck, who missed last week’s game with an injury and was playing at only about 70 percent, was 24-of-41 passing for 254 yards and two touchdowns. He was 9-of-15 for –of-15 for 86 yards on the Lions’ last two possessions.

It was such an exasperating victory, Ramsey requested a moment to catch his breath before he spoke to reporters about his game-saving play.

“I just read the quarterback’s eyes, I knew I had to drop back,” he said. “I saw it coming, I had to give it everything I had. The game’s on the line.

“This was very big. People have been doubting Cherokee County for the longest (time). Now we’re 6-1, 3-0 in the region. What else can we say? We’re here. We need our respect.”

Munford amassed 400 yards of offense and rallied from a 21-6 deficit but never got a lead. The Lions (4-3, 1-3) tied it at 6-6, 21-20 at halftime and 28-26 after Corbin Smith’s 3-yard touchdown run with 3:43 left in the third quarter. They missed three 2-point conversions that denied them two leads and a tie.

“We had some chances to make some plays that would have maybe even won the game for us or put us in a better position to win the game and we didn’t make some plays,” Munford coach Michael Easley said. “We got off to such a bad start at the beginning. I told the kids we didn’t lose this game in the fourth quarter. This game started back in the first quarter when we were sloppy with the ball, came out not mentally prepared and made some mistakes there was just no reason to make early in a game.

“We had our chances and we didn’t do what we needed to do to make the plays to win the game. We put ourselves in a hole in the first half that shouldn’t have happened.”

In addition to his big play to start the game that loosened Munford’s box, Hopper also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Conner Elrod on the second play of the second quarter. Ramsey, a bulldozer of a running back, rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

“He’s been a warrior for us ever since Slade (Alexander’s) injury, just stepping up,” Kelley said of Ramsey. “Cade Hopper stepped up big in the first half … Hats off to the guys for playing the whole game. This was a big game just for the region, for the playoffs and whatever. I’m so proud of the guys for just getting the job done tonight.”

The victory kept the Warriors undefeated in the region and into a virtual tie for the league lead with Handley, which will go to 3-0 in the region after receiving a COVID-related forfeit from Jacksonville tonight. The loss puts Munford in a position to have to win the rest of its games for an inevitable first-round playoff trip to the Mobile area.

“It puts our backs against the wall,” Easley said. “We’ve got two region games left (Anniston and White Plains). It’s in our hands. It’s on us.”

Cherokee Co.  14   7   7   0   –  28
Munford          6    14  6   0   –  26
C – Whit Johnson 87 pass from Cade Hopper (kick failed), 9:46 1Q
M – Peyton Gaither 7 pass from Jay Tuck (run failed), 5:51 1Q
C – Damien Ramsey 1 run (Conner Elrod pass from Damien Ramsey), 0:31 1Q
C – Conner Elrod 35 pass from Cade Hopper (Daniel Meija kick), 11:21 2Q
M – T.D. Parker 18 pass from Jay Tuck (Sylvester Smith run), 9:04 2Q
M – Sylvester Smith 1 run (run failed), 2:51 2Q
C – Caleb Malone 20 run (Daniel Meija kick), 7:39 3Q
M – Corbin Smith 3 run (pass failed), 3:43 3Q

Cher (6-1)Mun (4-3)
111st Downs24
162Passing yds254

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