The Trojans recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff to set up an easy score and Chad Brooks returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, propelling West to a 28-7 Five Rivers Conference win in Big Red Valley on Friday night.
Cherokee coach Mike Sivert said the two plays on special teams put his squad behind the eight-ball.
“Special teams is the easiest way to win a game and the easiest way to lose a game,” he said. “We just fell apart at the seams like a cheap suit.”
Before some of the fans had even taken their seats, West (1-2, 1-0) kicked the ball, forced the fumble and fell on it at the 4-yard line.
Three plays later, Logan Wild hit Patrick Hodge from six yards out to put the Trojans ahead.
West coach Don Woods said the fumble recovery gave his team a big boost.
“That’s where it always all starts — special teams,” he said. “I’m just so proud of the team.”
After a scoreless second quarter, West was clinging to a 14-7 lead as the second half got underway.
But Brooks, a sophomore reserve running back, changed all that by catching a kickoff at the 15-yard line, dodging a couple tackles and sprinting down the middle of the field to the end zone.
Terrell Fredricks put away the Chiefs (1-2, 0-1) with his second rushing touchdown of the game, a 20-yard scamper midway through the fourth quarter.
Fredricks finished with 60 yards on 10 carries. His other touchdown came in the second quarter from 19 yards out.
All in all, Cherokee’s defense did a great job against the Trojans, holding them to 220 yards. As a matter of fact, West only out-gained the Chiefs by 24 yards.
But the play of West’s special teams left the Chiefs’ offense trying to play catch-up for most of the game.
“The defense played good enough there in the middle of the game for us to make a run,” Sivert said. “We had a golden opportunity to take advantage, but we didn’t get it done.”
The loss overshadowed a great performance by Cherokee quarterback David Cantrell. The senior went 11-for-18 with 122 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
“Cantrell did some good things,” Sivert said. “He stepped up in the pocket and made some good throws.”
His 9-yard strike to Jordan Shively in the first quarter briefly game the Chiefs their only lead of the game.
When West clamped down on Cherokee’s rushing attack in the second half — the Trojans allowed just 16 yards on the ground after halftime — Cantrell kept the chains moving.
But without a consistent ground game, he couldn’t get the Chiefs into the end zone. Landon House was the leading rusher for Cherokee, picking up 63 yards on 10 carries.
Wild completed 8-of-16 pass attempts for 64 yards and a score while J.J. Goforth went forth and picked up 68 yards on 12 carries for West.
With the Cherokee’s usual punter out, Sivert worked some special teams magic of his own, spreading his punt coverage team out from sideline to sideline before the snap to keep West from being able to gear up for a return.
Michael Godsey did a serviceable job, averaging 32.2 yards per punt on five attempts.