MORRISTOWN – The Cherokee Chiefs returned from Morristown 3-0 on the season after a hard-fought, comeback, 27-23 win over the Morristown East Hurricanes Friday night.
Collin Trent was the game’s star, passing for two touchdowns, running for two more and adding two interceptions on defense, including one near the Cherokee goal line with 13 seconds to go to seal the victory.
Cherokee kicked off to start the game, and East was called for an illegal procedure penalty on the first play. Play was dominated by penalties in the first half, with 19 being called by halftime, including six on the first drive.
The Cherokee defense held as East punted and was called for interference with the fair catch. Cherokee was called for holding on their first play, and the drive ended when the Chiefs turned the ball over on downs.
East got on the scoreboard on the next series with a 61-yard TD pass from Cole Henson to Evan Fields. The PAT was good, giving the hurricanes a 7-0 lead at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter.
Cherokee got the scoreboard with a 56-yard drive on the next possession. The drive featured a 23-yard pass from Trent to Jonas Leeper, an 18-yard Trent run and a nine-yard Trent pass to Micah Jones.
Trent then found Trent Price in the end zone from seven yards out. It was Price’s first touchdown of the season. Peter Egbert made the PAT to tie the score with twelve seconds to go in the quarter.
On the next East possession, Trent intercepted Henson’s pass at the Cherokee eight-yard line and returned it to the 36, where East was called for a facemask. Cherokee failed to capitalize as Trent threw his first interception when he was picked off by C.J. Livesay, who returned it to the Cherokee 31, where the Chiefs were flagged for helmet to helmet contact, moving the ball to the 16.
The Chiefs’ defense stopped the Hurricanes twice near the goal line, but Ethan Ledford scored and the PAT made the score 14-7.
Penalties and mistakes cost the Chiefs on the next possession. First the kickoff appeared to be going out of bounds but died near the goal line, with Cherokee returning it to the six. An illegal procedure penalty moved the ball to the three. On the next play Cherokee was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety for East, building the lead to 16-7. There was no more scoring in the first half.
Cherokee had the ball to start the second half but a Price fumble was recovered by Livesay for East. A Tyler Haun sack moved the ball back to the 40, and a holding flag on East negated a first down and East was forced to punt. It looked like a 3 and out for Cherokee but Trent faked a punt and ran 14 yards for a first down. East was called for pass interference in the end zone, and Trent found Conner Smith with a six yard touchdown pass. Egbert’s PAT was good, closing the gap to 16-14.
The Chiefs held the Hurricanes to a 3 and out, forcing them to punt. On 3rd and 8 at the 44 Trent found Leeper for nine yards to keep the drive alive. Trent fell into the end zone from the one, but the 2-point PAT attempt failed. Cherokee took the lead at 20-16 with 10:46 to go.
The Hurricanes came back with a long drive that included three Henson passes, an eleven yard Ledford run and two penalties on the Chiefs. With a 1st and goal at the 4, the Chiefs defense stuffed the Hurricanes on two plays, backing them up to the seven, but on 3rd and goal Henson found Trevor Malone for six. The PAT made in 23-20 Hurricanes with 3:39 to go.
Isaac Williams returned a short kickoff to the Cherokee 38. On 3rd and 8 Trent found Conner Smith with a 15 yard pass. He found Smith again at the East 21 and a roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to the East 11. With 2:08 left, Trent ran in from the eleven to give the Chiefs a 27-23 lead after Egbert’s PAT.
Henson ran up the middle for 15 yards to start the next East drive. Three pass completions moved the ball to the Chiefs 36. On 4th and six Henson ran for eight yards and a first down to the Chiefs 28. Henson attempted a long pass but Trent made a diving interception at the two yard line with 14 seconds remaining to preserve the win.
Coach Cody Baugh’s reaction to the game: “It’s definitely great to win and be 3-0. The first half wasn’t what we wanted; it was like we were almost too excited to play. At halftime I challenged the offensive line. We have to be able to run the ball to win.”
The Chiefs play at home against Morristown West on Friday.