E.A. Sports Today


Guess Who’s Back? Tittle impactful two weeks after ACL tear, and Cherokee County defense stifles Westminster Christian’s high-powered offense to return to Super 7.

Cover photo: Cherokee County head coach Jacob Kelley hands the Class 4A North championship trophy to his team after the Warriors beat Westminster Christian 50-6 in Friday’s semifinal at Huntsville. (Photo by Shannon Fagan/WEIS Sports Director)

By Shannon Fagan
WEIS Sports Director

HUNTSVILLE — For the second straight week, the Cherokee County Warriors had the daunting task of defending against one of the state’s most prolific scoring offenses.

And, for the second straight week, the Warrior defense delivered a dominating performance on the road.

The unit limited Westminster Christian senior quarterback Brandon Musch – the state’s second all-time total yardage producer with more than 14,000 yards for his career – to 59 yards passing and a touchdown on the game’s final play in a 50-6 victory.

The win sends the Warriors (13-1) back to the Class 4A state title game, where they will face Catholic of Montgomery (14-0). The Knights shut out Booker T. Washington 28-0 in Friday’s other 4A state semifinal.

“It’s a blessing to be back and be able to do this,” Warriors senior running back Jacob Cornejo said. “I’m glad I get to celebrate it with all my childhood friends and celebrate it with all these coaches who love me. It’s just a great feeling.”

The Class 4A state championship game is Dec. 8 at 11 a.m. in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“We know what’s at stake,” said Cornejo, who led the Warriors with 144 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns – all in the first half. “We have a bad taste from the last time we went to state. We all want to get it out of our mouths. 

“I feel like everybody is ready for it. I think everybody is excited to go back. I know everybody wants to have their fun this weekend, but when it comes Monday, it’s time to go to work.

They know what needs to be done to win that game.”

The Warriors certainly knew what it took to win against Westminster. The defense made its presence felt early against the Wildcats (11-3).

On just the third play of the game, a Musch fumble was recovered by the Warriors’ Caleb Harbour at the Wildcat 13-yard line. Two plays later, Tae Diamond scored on a 1-yard run to put the Warriors up 7-0.

“The game plan was to come out strong and hit ‘em in the mouth,” Harbour said. “Just play our game, keep our minds straight and not get too cocky.

“We talked about it all week, during film. We knew 2 was the man. He’s the one to stop. If you stop him, then the game is basically in your hands.”

Disaster struck Westminster Christian on its second series. The Warriors forced a punt in which a high snap was pounced on by Brown at the Wildcat 30.

Four plays later, Cornejo ran it in from two yards. The Warriors’ fortunes continued on the extra point attempt as holder Haden Wheeler took a mishandled snap and threw it to Ben Mosley for a 2-point conversion.

With 6:26 remaining in the first quarter, the Warriors were in control at 15-0.

“We were all flying to the football,” Brown said. “I really could’ve picked it up and ran it, but I just jumped on it to be safe.”

“If those two things (turnovers) don’t happen, who’s to say the game doesn’t go differently?” Warrior coach Jacob Kelley said. “We did a good job of getting points on both of those series.

“I feel like our defense probably played the most complete game of the season. They were physical as all get out. They were tackling well. They got after it. It was so good to see that. They were locked in.”

Desperate to get anything going offensively, the Wildcats went for a fourth down play on their next possession at the Warrior 17, but Musch was sacked by Diamond for a 7-yard loss to turn the ball over on downs.

The Warrior offense capitalized again, this time through the air. Junior quarterback Carson Tittle – returning from a torn ACL to his left knee suffered two weeks ago – connected with Ben Frampton on a 25-yard touchdown pass. Frampton’s ensuing extra point provided the Warriors a 22-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Following a Diamond 23-yard touchdown run and a Cornejo 2-yard score, Tittle put the exclamation on the first half – and the game – with another scoring strike to Frampton. This one went for 79 yards, and it put the Warriors up 43-0 at halftime.

Tittle, the former Ohatchee standout who moved after his father Bobby became Cherokee County’s principal, was 3-for-3 passing with 110 yards and two scores – all to Frampton.

“That wasn’t me. It was all Ben,” Tittle said. “He got open, and the line was blocking. None of that was me. All I did was get it to him.”

Asked what he’ll take away from his improbable comeback to the Warrior lineup, Tittle said “We’ve got one more to win.”

“That’s really all I’m taking from this,” he said. “We just have to take care of business next week.”

Said Kelley, “I told him he was going to make me cry at halftime.”.

“Jacob (Cornejo) gets a lot of credit for being the ultimate Warrior,” Kelley said, “but when your quarterback goes out in the second round with a torn ACL, and then decides after a week off knowing that we could throw it on these guys, he made the decision on his own to try and practice this week?

“It’s those type of things that legends and stories are made. To do that with a torn ACL is unreal. He was on the money. I couldn’t be prouder of him and what he means to this team.”

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