Considering the win in hand with a 31-0 halftime lead, Cherokee's football Braves rocked back on their heels in the second half and an opportunistic Hull Western Christian rallied for four touchdowns, three in the fourth quarter, to make a 43-28 loss look better than it actually was here Friday night.
The Braves charged to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, and added 21 points in the second frame to take a 31-0 lead into halftime against a deflated Wolfpack team.
But HWC circled the wagons in the second half and, with a renewed pass rush on Cherokee quarterback Tyler Jones and the pass-happy Braves, did some damage on offense and defense to make the run-away appear closer than it actually was. Several Cherokee turnovers also fed the late HWC rally.
The Braves had another TD in the first quarter whistled back on a holding call, after Chris Campbell reeled in a Jones pass and rambled 60 yards down the sideline to paydirt, only to have the play nullified by the flag.
Cherokee started its scoring in the first quarter with an 18-yard field goal off the toe of reliable Andy Dawson, whose kicks go way far into the night. Shortly after that, an alert Michael Boothby snagged a Wolfpack punt at midfield, spied an opening, kicked 'er up a gear, and rolled 46 yards for a touchdown.
Three more TDs in the second frame gave the Braves their 31-0 halftime lead. The first came on a 63-yard scamper by Chris Campbell on a screen pass in the middle from Jones, the second on a six-yard QB draw from Jones, and the third on an eight-yard TD pass from Jones to Mark Johnson, who refused to go down, breaking one tackle and bowling over two other HWC defenders who had a decent shot at him.
The Braves opened the second half scoring with an 11-yard TD pass from Jones to Johnson. Dawson added a 22-yard field goal in the fourth period, and Tim Jones sacked Wolfpack QB Brennan Granstra for a safety for a five-point fourth quarter output by the Braves.
HWC scored a lone TD in the third and added three more TDs in the fourth on a two-yard run by Taylor Van Beek, and scoring passes of eight and 18 yards from Granstra.
Cherokee's Jones was 26-49 passing for 388 yards, three TDs and three interceptions. He rushed 18 times for 35 yards, and Dawson carried it three times for 17. Leading receivers for the Braves were Kyle Schuett seven catches for 89 yards, Campbell six catches for 130 yards, Josh Mugge five catches for 79 yards, Johnson four catches for 12 yards and two TDs, Michael Boothby two catches for 56 yards, and Matthew Boothby two for 22.
Granstra passed 16-28 for 166 yards, two TDs and one pick. The Wolfpack rushed 37 times for just 45 yards against the Braves bruising defense.
Cherokee's Matthew Boothby had a superb defensive sequence late in the first half. He picked off a HWC pass that was whistled back on another penalty against the Braves, and then turned right around and picked off another pass on the very next play, this time it counted.
Tim Jones led the winners on defense with 15 tackles, followed by Nick Daum 13, Nick Loughlin 10, Dawson nine, and Mugge seven with some serious hits inflicted on the HWC ball carriers.
The flag-happy officials penalized the Braves eight times for 85 yards, including seven for 65 yards in the first half. HWC was whistled three times for 23 yards in the first half, and ended up with seven flags for 70 yards all toll.
The Braves registered 19 first downs to 11 for HWC, which had just three at halftime.
"It was obviously hard for the guys to stay motivated after that big lead," said Cherokee coach Tony Napierala. "We gave them the ball on our own 28 and our own six in the fourth quarter on turnovers and they scored. We've got to fix that. We had too many turnovers.
I give them (HWC) a lot of credit for the energy they played with in the second half, but turned it over and let them score some easy ones. We'll go to work on that."
The Braves, 3-0 in district play and 3-2 over all, host Orange City Unity Christian (0-5) Friday night.