Senior quarterback Collin Trent dashed 13 yards for a touchdown with 2:14 left to play to seal the deal for the Chiefs (2-0).
“It was crazy out there tonight,” said Trent, who finished with 160 yards on 18 carries and scored four TDs. “It was very emotional.
“I love this team and the bond we have. When I scored that last touchdown, I began to cry. This is one night I’ll never forget.”
Trent, who missed all of last season with an injury, also completed 14 of 28 passes for 112 yards and a TD. His other three touchdown runs were for 8, 74 and 10 yards, and his scoring pass was a 30-yard leaping grab by Connor Smith.
The loss was especially hard for the Rebels to take after senior running back Julian Reed gained 267 yards on 22 carries. He scored touchdowns on runs of 15, 16, 34 and 78 yards. Reed also had a 56-yard TD run called back on a penalty.
“Our guys played hard,” said South coach Justin Hilton. “I’m disappointed in the loss but not disappointed in our guys.
“Reed kept us in the game with his running. He was a mismatch for them all night.”
After last season’s 1-9 finish, Cherokee coach Cody Baugh was elated with his team’s 2-0 start.
“Our kids never quit,” Baugh said. “They just kept playing hard. I love these guys and believe in them so much.”
South (0-2), which trailed 14-10 at the half, went out front 17-14 on Reed’s 16-yard jaunt into the end zone.
On the very next Cherokee play from scrimmage, Trent raced past the South defense on his 74-yard scoring jaunt to put the Chiefs back on top 20-17.
Reed and Trent traded scores before Reed burned the Chiefs with his 78-yard TD run that put South on top 30-26 with 3:31 remaining in the game.
Starting at their own 40, the Chiefs marched 60 yards in five plays, capped by Trent’s game-winner with 2:14 showing on the clock.
“We learned tonight we have a bunch of guys who will fight,” Hilton said. “Things don’t always go your way.
“Situations like this build character. You just have to pick yourself up and come back and work hard.”