Pivotal defensive adjustments at halftime, meant to stifle Orange City Unity Christian's effective and perplexing double wing offense, paid vast dividends for the Cherokee Braves, who went on to claim a resounding 42-18 Class 2A District 1 football victory here Friday night.
With the visiting Knights scoring on their first possession of the game, a shell-shocked Braves' team knew they were in for a serious tussle that threatened their undefeated (3-0) district mark.
The Braves then posted three more TDs in the second frame, the first a 17-yard pass and run from Jones to Mark Johnson, followed by a sweet 26-yard TD pass from Jones to Matt Koch in the end zone, and a scintillating 80-yard kick-off return for a TD from fleet sophomore Kyle Schuett with under a minute left in the first half.
Schuett's beauty followed two second-quarter TDs from the opportunistic Knights on runs of one and two yards from QB Jacob Dykstra. Unity Christian's first-quarter TD was a 12-yard run by Dykstra.
The first TD for the winners in the third was a six-yard pass from Jones to Koch, and then an alert Dawson picked off his second interception in the game and rambled in from nine yards out to seal the deal. Of course, Dawson added all six PAt attempts.
Jones was 27-46 passing for 302 yards, four TDs and one interception before giving away to second-string QBs in the fourth quarter. Jones rushed 12 times for 15 yards. Leading receivers for the 4-2 Braves were Campbell 10 catches for 132 yards, Koch six catches for 74 yards, Johnson five catches for 46 yards, Schuett four catches for 34 yards, and Michael Boothby two catches for 16 yards.
The Braves also were hampered with a half-dozen dropped passes, and two fumbles on kick-off return catches.
For the Knights, Dykstra was 8-21 passing for 167 yards. They rushed 55 times for 215 yards, with Dykstra leading the way with 24 hauls for 166 yards.
Unity Christian tallied 17 first downs, to 14 by the quick-striking Braves. Cherokee punter Tim Jones had a great night, booming four punts for 156 yards, two of those to inside the Knights' five-yard line when it counted most.
Leading tacklers for the impressive Braves defense were Nick Daum 15, Ben Georga 10, Tim Jones 10, Josh Mugge 10, Dawson nine, and Drew Lugar five. Dawson had two picks.
"We were flat early but got that straightened out," said Cherokee coach Tony Napierala. "We made a great halftime adjustment on defense and I need to credit coaches Kurt Reynolds, Scott Koch, Neil Phipps, Lynn Jolly, and Matt Malausky. They put it together and made it work. We've never faced the double wing before and it gave us trouble early. But, hey, we adjusted and we're 4-0 Baby!"
The Braves have two rugged road assignments ahead at Central Lyon-Rock Rapids Friday, and at undefeated and 4th-ranked Sioux Center the following Friday. They end with a home date against dangerous Sheldon in three weeks.