Cherokee's Landon House cuts for the hole while Central's Morgan Winchell, left, gives chase. Shawn Peters photo.
BLOUNTVILLE — There’s nothing that ails a football team that can’t be cured by 486 yards of offense, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
Cherokee used big plays on offense, defense and special teams to beat Sullivan Central 42-14 on Friday night, putting an end to the Chiefs’ three-game skid.
After consecutive losses to Christian Academy of Knoxville and both Morristown teams, the Chiefs were desperate for a good showing, and Cherokee coach Mike Sivert like what he saw.
“We hadn’t played a complete game,” Sivert said. “I felt like tonight we did a lot better tonight. We had to get out of a mire we’ve been in for the last couple weeks.”
The Chiefs pounded out 360 yards on the ground while quarterback David Cantrell completed 7 of 13 pass attempts for 126 yards, throwing three touchdowns and an interception.
Cantrell’s three scoring strikes came in the first half and helped the Chiefs jump out to a quick 28-0 advantage. Matt Hale caught a pair of touchdown passes while tight end Adam Andrews caught one for Cherokee.
“If finally came together tonight,” Cantrell said. “It has been a struggle on offense, but we had fun with it tonight. I looked in the huddle tonight and I saw smiles on everyone’s faces.”
With plenty of time to throw the ball and plenty of open receivers, Cantrell had his squad rolling before Central fought back late in the second quarter.
After the injury to Cherokee defensive back Michael Godsey, the Cougars’ passing attack came alive.
Central quarterback Duke Moretz threw a pair of interceptions early but bounced back in a big way. He completed a 45-yard pass to wideout Matt Crowder before connecting with Courtney Bowles on a 25-yard TD 64 seconds before halftime.
“We’re making some good decisions downfield,” Central coach Scott Nelson said. “These guys showed a lot of heart tonight.”
With the spread offense clicking on all cylinders, Central took the opening kickoff of the second half and used an 11-play, 65-yard drive to pull within two touchdowns. Robert Herring’s 3-yard run made the score 28-14.
Moretz completed 12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Central’s defense made an adjustment that grounded Cherokee’s passing attack.
“They switched defenses on us and went to a cover 2,” Cantrell said. “But we have eight good runners, so we went to the run and it worked for us.”
Nelson said it was a move he had to make in order to neutralize Cherokee’s receivers and give his team a chance to get back in the game.
“We went from our pressure defense to the 4-3,” he said. “It hurt us a little because guys got pinned inside.”
The Chiefs (2-3) went to the ground and rolled up 211 rushing yards in the second half, chewing up the clock and adding a pair of touchdowns to provide the final margin.
“Central came back strong,” Sivert said. “But we played hard and got out of these doldrums.”
Terrance Kersey led Cherokee with 161 yards on nine carries and a TD. Kersey’s first rushing attempt of the game went for 71 yards, setting up the Chiefs’ first score.
Tyler Carter broke loose for 108 yards on 12 carries. The big fullback also scored a TD from 24 yards out in the final seconds of the third quarter, dragging a Central defender on his back the last 3 yards.
Herring did a bulk of the work on the ground for Central (0-5), carrying the ball 16 times for 91 yards and a touchdown.