Cherokee County returns key players in 2009

Cherokee County High School, located in Centre, Ala., had an amazing Class 4A state championship run in 2008 which ended with a 41-7 loss to powerhouse UMS-Wright in the Super Six. The Indians, led by head coach Tripp Curry, made it to Birmingham with an undefeated record before falling to the champions.

Cherokee County returns several key members including quarterback Coty Blanchard. A key insertion of transfer Desmond Brown to full time duty on both sides of the ball may become a big help in 2009.

Blanchard returns as the signal caller with the 6-foot-1, 187-pound prospect holding an offer from Jacksonville State. He is receiving interest from several programs around the region.

Blanchard threw for 2,325 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. He added 907 yards rushing on the ground with 13 touchdowns. Blanchard was named the Gadsden Times All-Area Quarterback and ASWA Class 4A honorable mention Quarterback for his performance. Blanchard stars on the hardwood and baseball diamond as well.

"I feel like I am a good leader," said Blanchard. "I have a pretty strong arm. I am really trying to improve on everything. I have received an offer from Jacksonville State. Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee are showing interest in me."

Desmond Brown transferred to Cherokee County in 2008 from Model High School in Rome, Ga., and not eligible until the fifth game of the year.

Brown saw limited action last season, but the 5-foot-11, 185-pound prospect will get a full time job in the secondary and could start at running back for the Indians.

Brown has received scholarship offers from Arkansas and South Carolina with Alabama, Auburn and several other schools in the Southeast showing strong interest. Spring evaluations and summer camps should bring about more scholarship offers.

"I came around the fifth week of high school football," said Brown. "It took a while for me to get in the system. As soon as I got on a roll, coach tried me out everywhere. They want me to play cornerback this year. I will get to challenge at running back as well."

Coach Tripp Curry expected the team to challenge for a state championship in 2009, and made it to Legion Field back in December a little ahead of schedule. He is excited about the upcoming season.

"We always have to work on defense," said coach Curry. "We can never be good enough on the defensive side of the ball. We have to take one game at time. I know a lot of our guys want to play again in the state championship, but if we look ahead we won't be there."

"I thought this year would be our best year. It worked out that some of our seniors did a great job for us last year, and we really came together as a team."

"We have a great nucleus coming back. We have 16-17 starters coming back. Hopefully, we can get some 10th and 11th graders step up for us. They will be the ones replacing the guys who we will lose from this upcoming class."

At least four of Cherokee County's seniors will have an opportunity to play at the next level with Blanchard, Crane, Chambers and Brown. Coach Curry talked about the new leaders.

Coty Blanchard: "I think he is one of the best quarterbacks around. He is just a winner. He has a great arm and good speed. He loves practicing, and loves the game. He is just a good overall player."

Caleb Crane: "He has transformed into a linebacker who can play at the next level. If he gets his speed right and really works hard during the off-season he has a great chance to be a good college player."

Gabriel Chambers: "Gabriel may have more upside than any of our players because of his speed. He is a true 4.4-40 guy. He won the state track meet in the 100-meters last year. He can really do a lot of things."

Desmond Brown: "The thing about Desmond is his attitude. He is always positive. We had a hard time getting him eligible last year. He never gave up and never quit. He is a great athlete. He didn't try to take over anyone else's position."

"He has size, hips, speed. We have to find somewhere he can get in and stay there. He has to get as many reps as possible. It hurt him that we played him at five different positions. He should be able to play at the next level. Somebody will be a happy camper to get him."

Curry will coach an Alabama team in the New Level Athletics 7-on-7 tournament in Tampa. A few of his players, along with some of the state's best, will compete in mid-March including Craig Sanders, Jarrick Williams, Solomon Patton, Dale Trimble, D.J. Howard, Demarcus Milliner and Ryan Smith.

"I am excited about it," Curry stated. "It's going to be fun. I don't know who we got, but I understand we have some good athletes. We are going down there to have fun. We are getting prepared and very excited about it."

Gabriel Chambers plays slot receiver and also one of the state's best track athletes. His speed is certainly something college coaches have noticed. He has received early interest from Alabama, Ole Miss, Birmingham Southern and Jacksonville State.

"I thought we did pretty good this past year," said Chambers. "We said we were going to state, and that was our goal. We worked hard on-and-off the field. We came together as a family, and we were a hard team to beat."

"I had 869 yards and six touchdowns during the season. I am 5-foot-10, 166-pounds right now. I am working on speed, speed and speed. I am trying to get stronger as well. My biggest strength is my eye vision."

Caleb Crane recorded 210 tackles with 24 tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception. He was a first team All-State linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound prospect has received early interest from Alabama, Florida State and Ole Miss.

"I had a good season, but I have some improvement to do," said Crane. "I want to get stronger and get my speed up. I am good at reading plays and getting to the ball every play."

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