Lightning in the southern sky forced the players off the field with a 20-minute delay with 5:53 left in the first half, but a "lightning strike" by the Tornadoes' Tyson Brandt with 6:30 left in the first quarter went a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Brandt's "lightning" was a 98-yard kick-off return for a touchdown that handed the Lakers a 14-3 lead and set the Braves on their heels the rest of the way.
That costly stunner followed a official's lame and inexplicable call preceding it. Cherokee kicked off to Storm Lake after Andy Dawson put the Braves on the board with a 15-yard field goal, making the score 6-3. Dawson kicked the ball into the end zone where the kick returner caught it and the official correctly blew the ball dead because the ball can't be returned out of the end zone on a kick-off. This means Storm Lake takes possession on its own 20-yard line. However, the official then said the ball was not in the end zone and that forced a re-kick and the resultant 98-yard TD.
Upon explaining to folks on the sideline (why he felt so compelled is also strange)) after his call, the official said, "His (kick returner's) feet were in the end zone, but the ball wasn't." How this can be is surely an athletic miracle worthy of a Harvard Study in Physical and Spatial Science.
So, the Braves were forced to kick off again and, yup, Brandt went the distance to get the fortunate Green & White up and away.
The first half ended 14-6 Storm Lake after the powerful leg of Dawson booted another field goal, this one a 30-yard job.
To their credit, the Class 3A Tornadoes came out in the third quarter fired up against the flat 2A Braves and rang up two TDs - one a two-yard run by Brandt, and the killer a 33-yard TD pass play from wily quarterback Mitch McCabe to 6-4 tight end Aaron Clausen, who the shorter Cherokee secondary was no match for.
That 28-6 lead again shattered the Braves psyche before Cherokee QB Tyler Jones hooked up with Michael Boothby for a sweet 38-yard TD pass play on fourth down late in the third frame. A booming Dawson field goal from 42 yards out followed that after an SL fumble, but that 10-point spurt wasn't enough as the teams went scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Tyler Jones, the victim of many dropped balls by the Cherokee receivers, was 23-56 passing for 253 yards, one TD and one interception. Mark Johnson caught nine for 69 yards, Michael Boothby five for 98 yards and a TD, and Kyle Schuett three for 57 yards.
For Storm Lake, QB Mitch McCabe was 18-30 passing for 240 yards, one TD and one pick. The Lakers rushed 45 times for 78 yards, with Brandt rushing 34-105 yards, and McCabe rushing nine times for a minus 33 yards.
Cherokee's passing attack netted 17 yards rushing, with Dawson gaining nine on three hauls, and Jones eight yards.
Dawson also led the Braves on defense with 13 tackles, while Tim Jones had 12, Josh Mugge 10, and Nick Daum nine.
Storm Lake gained 17 first downs and the Braves tallied 11. Cherokee was penalized six times for 65 yards, and SL eight times for 70.
"Those drops got our offense out of rhythm," noted a disappointed Cherokee coach Tony Napierala. "We also didn't block very well, so we've got some work to do heading into district play."
The 0-2 Braves host fifth ranked Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, now 2-0 this season, to open 2A district play Friday at 7 p.m.
"We'll have our hands full," said Napierala.