The Morristown West Trojans invite the Cherokee Chiefs this Friday into Burke-Toney Stadium for their Week 9, must-win, Region 1-5A matchup.
The last two weeks have not been the easiest for the Trojans after dropping a region game on the road to Tennessee High and losing in their non-region game against Carter last week, but a win this week can steer West right where it needs to be.
Before visiting Tennessee High, the Trojans’ (4-4, 1-2 Region 1-5A) playoff hopes were very much alive as they rose to the two seed after defeating Daniel Boone. Now, they find themselves in a fight for home field in the postseason.
“We can check off one of our goals with a win this Friday and that’s solidifying ourselves in the playoffs,” West’s coach Alvin Sanders said. “We can control our destiny with this game here. We are in a position to secure a spot. … It lets us know everything we have done this season was worth it.”
However, the only game Sanders’s team can control is their game against Cherokee (2-5, 0-2 Region 1-5A), where a win will lock up the three seed, at least.
The Chiefs are coming off their second win of the season as they rolled over West Greene last Friday, 44-28, after losing their last five games (one due to COVID).
Cherokee brings in a physical nature about them with a lot of size on both the defensive and offensive front line.
“We are preparing for a physical game this week,” Sanders said. “Cherokee got after David Crockett last week and was giving Crockett some problems up front.
Both of our lines are going to have to move bodies. It’s going to be a huge challenge with how big Cherokee is. We know we are up against some big athletic guys but we have to use our athleticism of the guys we have up front and get after them.”
Another challenge the Trojans will face is the wildcat formation Cherokee has run this season behind Brayden Collins’ impressive play. Last week, Collins scored four touchdowns out of the wildcat.
Will Price has stepped up at the quarterback position for the Chiefs and has found some success in the passing game with Preston McNalley and Aiden Webb.
“Our defense has to do a better job at getting opposing offenses off the field, plain and simple,” Sanders said. “The last two weeks, we haven’t done a great job at doing that. We have had a focused group in practice this week. We are improving and have learned a lot in the last two weeks.”
The Trojans are facing a few key injuries this week with one being senior starting quarterback Noah Tripucka who checked out early against Carter last week. He will be a game-time decision.
Sophomore Malakhi Isom has taken reps as QB1 this week in practice as he will likely start in place of Tripucka.
“We have complete confidence in Isom,” Sanders said. “We know he can make plays and execute at a high level. The expectation is no different. We want to keep our foot on the gas and keep getting better offensively.”
The good news is West will have Hunter Delaney back at running back, who was out due to illness last week. He and backup Tison Johnson will be in charge of producing a much-needed ground attack for the Trojans to find success on the offensive end.
On the defensive side, the Trojans missing leading tackler James Ross along with a few others.
“We have some important pieces out on defense this week,” Sanders said. “We are going to have to have that ‘next guy up’ mentality. I have full faith in those guys who are stepping in. We have shown we can dig into the depth chart and still win games.”
There are many challenges presented ahead of this Region 1-5A game against Cherokee but as Sanders said, he has full faith in his team to get a win for the seniors on Senior Night.
West’s seniors will be honored before the game on Friday as the Trojans kick off against the Cheifs at 7 p.m.