On Thursday night, the Cherokee football team picked up its first victory of the season on the road with a 48-27 win over the Volunteer Falcons in the annual battle of Hawkins County. It marked the Chiefs’ 11th straight win in the series, which is a record.
“It feels good to get that gorilla off my back,” Cherokee head coach Cody Baugh said. “The little things were killing us in the first half. … Anytime you have those close rivals, there’s always bragging rights.”
Chiefs (1-4, 1-1) quarterback Trey Courtney got it done both running and passing, finishing the game going 8-of-21 for 107 yards and three scores through the air and adding one score on the ground. He rushed 19 times for 207 yards.
Chiefs running back Japheth Curtsinger scored three times and had 30 yards on six carries.
Volunteer (2-3, 0-2) quarterback Eli Dorton threw for 133 yards and was 8-of-24 with one interception. He carried the ball eight times for 18 yards and three touchdowns. There were more than a handful of opportunities for Dorton to hit open receivers downfield, but all of them were overthrows.
A key series occurred in the third quarter with the game tied at 20. Volunteer got the ball to start and went three-and-out and botched a punt on fourth down. Cherokee scored two plays later on a 13-yard run by Courtney to give the Chiefs a 27-20 lead.
The Falcons fumbled the ball on the next drive and Cherokee scored on the very next play with a Jonas Leeper 20-yard touchdown reception from Courtney.
Volunteer punted on its next possession and Cherokee scored again.
The Chiefs had suddenly scored more points in the third quarter than they had during the rest of the game.
The Falcons had one rushing yard in the second half after racking up 140 yards in the first half.
One of the pieces of Volunteer’s offense was Isaiah Bragg, and he went out in the second half with an apparent leg injury.
“The turnovers were really uncharacteristic of us,” Volunteer head coach Justin Pressley said. “We came out of the locker room and wanted to throw it more and we had some missed opportunities. We took a lot of shots and it was what we wanted. We just weren’t firing.”
The Chiefs finished the game with 450 total yards, 343 of which were rushing, while Volunteer finished with 274 total yards.
The Falcons will host Grainger next week while Cherokee will travel to Morristown West.