Following a 5-5 season in 2017 that saw them miss the playoffs, the Cherokee football team couldn’t have dreamed of being in the playoffs after a 1-9 season in 2018.
And yet, thanks to a 5-0 start to the 2019 season, the regular season is over, and the Chiefs are still preparing for another football game.
Cherokee will travel to South Doyle on Friday to begin the Class 5A playoffs. The Chiefs are looking for a better showing then their last playoff appearance, which saw them fall to Knox Catholic 71-6 in 2016.
“It’s such a good feeling,” Cherokee coach Cody Baugh said. “There’s so many positives that come out of it. We are one of the final 32 teams. When you’re the four seed, you don’t always get the best matchups but come Friday, anything can happen.”
With the way the season started for the Chiefs, it looked as if a one seed was in the cards for Cherokee and home-field advantage.
Cherokee opened the season 5-0 and was in the region driver’s seat going into their matchup against Elizabethton.
However, the Chiefs were thumped by Elizabethton 45-0 and, after a win over Cocke County, finished the season on a three-game losing streak, making them the four seed in the playoffs.
As the Chiefs head into their matchup Friday, they will need to get back their early season mojo if they want to pull off the upset.
“We played better earlier in the year,” Baugh said. “We had some injuries and sickness that happened there a few times that hurt us and killed some momentum for us later in the season. We have to go and play a great game at the highest level we can be.”
It will be no easy task for Cherokee to pull off the upset Friday as they travel to South Knoxville to take on South Doyle. The Cherokees enter the game after a 7-3 regular season that saw them win Region 2-5A.
South Doyle is led by Elijah Young on offense. Young is a Missouri commit who has lit up every team the Cherokees have faced this season. In South Doyle’s game against Knox Central two weeks ago, Young ran for five touchdowns in the Cherokees’ upset of Central, who entered the game on a 21-game win streak. Three weeks ago, Young ran for 302 yards and four touchdowns in a victory over Knoxville Halls.
“Elijah is one of, if not the best player in the state of Tennessee,” Baugh said. “He is lightening fast and a very good football player. Our guys saw him last year and didn’t have much success against him. We just have to tackle him and bring him to the ground.”
South Doyle is coming off a 12-10 loss to top-ranked Powell last week to finish off their season. Their other two losses came against fourth ranked Anderson County and Seymour, a game in which Young was ejected from due to targeting.
Last season, South Doyle came to Cherokee early in the season and promptly went back to South Knoxville with a 61-21 win. However, in 2017, Cherokee stunned South Doyle with a 23-20 victory.
The Chiefs and Cherokees kick-off at 7 p.m. on Friday night. The winner would take on the winner of the Knoxville Halls and Daniel Boone game. Daniel Boone defeated Cherokee 45-20 just last week to end the season.
“On offense, we need to control the football and have good drives that get deep in their territory,” Baugh said. “Defensively, we just have to make sure they don’t have any big plays. Big plays have been hard on us since I have been at Cherokee and that is something we have to do our best to prevent.”