Cherokee Co. Pulls Out Thriller For 4A Title

Quarterback Coty Blanchard led his team on a last minute scoring drive to give Cherokee County the 4A title.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--When it came down to crunch time in the Class 4A state title game, the cream rose to the top for the Cherokee County Warriors. Down 27-24 to Jackson, senior quarterback Coty Blanchard led his team on a 53-yard drive to win the game as his five-yard run with 26 seconds left capped off the 10-play drive to win the game.

Despite the outcome of the drive it was anything but easy as the Warriors started out in a huge hole as Blanchard was sacked on the first play, but a holding call made the penalty 17 yards. Facing a first and 27, Blanchard hit Gabriel Chambers for 36 yards down the left sideline to the Jackson 34. From there Blanchard completed four consecutive passes to move inside the 10-yard line and set up the winning touchdown.

"It really wasn't a read, but it was a counter to me," Blanchard said. "Their defensive end number 34 (Shuntavis Sims) is a heck of a ball player. He did a great job of sliding down and concealing it. I went outside and saw some grass. After Cole (Sterling) made that great play on fourth and one it was our time to win that game. I had to do it."

The last drive almost never happened as Jackson had a chance to win the game with the football and a three-point lead with just over five minutes left starting at its own 47. Two Damion Bracy runs netted seven yards to give the Aggies a manageable third and three situation, but instead of giving the ball to their best player again, Jackson went with the fullback and he was stopped for no gain. On fourth down Jeff Kelly rolled the dice and went for it on fourth down, but Bracy was stopped for a three-yard loss to put Cherokee County in a position to pull out the win.

Blanchard earned MVP honors with 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns and added 187 yards and a touchdown pass as well. Bracy had 169 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Jackson while quarterback Ranse Hare struggled and finished just 3-13 for 46 yards and an interception.

Running back Damion Bracy had 31 carries for 169 yards in the loss.

Early on it was a turnover that gave early momentum to the Jackson Aggies. On the first play from scrimmage for Cherokee County, Blanchard fumbled on his own 11-yard line to give the ball to the Aggies in great field position. It took just two Bracy runs to put his team on the board first as his three-yard score and the extra-point made it 7-0 Jackson with 9:16 left in the first quarter.

Jackson had a chance to extend the lead early in the second quarter, but a John Mitchell 31-yard field goal missed short and right to give Cherokee County some life. The Warriors responded by driving from their own 20 to the Jackson 39, but Joshua Kimbell made the first of several big plays on the day as he went up high to intercept a Blanchard pass at his own nine and returned it five yards to the 14.

Following a Jackson punt Cherokee County finally got on the board as they took over on their own 49 and put together a seven-play drive for a touchdown. Standout linebacker Caleb Crane capped off the drive with a 16-yard run off left tackle to tie the game at seven.

The turnover bug then bit Jackson as quarterback Ranse Hare's pass was picked off by Patrick Lowe on the first play of the next series and returned to the 38. On third and three Blanchard ripped off a 31-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 Cherokee County.

Taking over on its own 41 following a short kickoff, Jackson answered and surprisingly it came through the air. Following Bracy runs of 10 and 17 yards, Hare threw deep with Kimbell making an acrobatic catch for 30 yards down to the Cherokee County two-yard line. Damien Foreman finished off the drive with a touchdown run, but the kicking game again proved to be a sore spot for Jackson as Mitchell's extra-point was wide right making it 14-13 Cherokee County. That's how things would remain until the Warriors struck again early in the third quarter.

Getting the ball on its own 23, Cherokee County took just eight plays to add to the lead as Blanchard hit a streaking Gabriel Chambers for a 24-yard touchdown with 8:15 left in the quarter. Isaac Jones added the extra-point to push the lead to eight, but just like this game had been all day Jackson refused to roll over.

It was the Bracy show again for the Aggies as he ran for all but 17 yards on a 10-play, 64-yard drive and he finished it off with a two-yard touchdown run to bring his team to within two. The two-point conversion failed though to leave Cherokee County in the lead. Another solid drive, this one seven plays and 57 yards, put the Warriors into scoring position where Jones' 32-yard field goal extended the lead to five with just 34 seconds left in the third quarter. ‘Bracy's third touchdown, a nine-yard scamper, gave Jackson the lead back with just over nine minutes left, but the real action was still to come and this one would come down to the wire before Cherokee County earned the win.

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