The fifth-rated Class 3A Spencer Tigers bookended a pair of touchdowns in the first and fourth quarters and went on to subdue a sputtering 2A Cherokee team 35-20 in a non-district football season opener here Friday night.
The Cherokee defense did a great job in the second and third quarters to stem the Tigers' flow and their quick-hitting running back Eric Norgaard, who stung the Braves for 159 yards on 18 carries and those first two touchdowns on scoring runs of two and 40 yards.
The Braves made the score 14-6 after one quarter when QB Tyler Jones hooked up with Kyle Schuett for a 10-yard TD pass, the PAT kick failing. After a scoreless second frame, that 14-6 score stood up into halftime.
Cherokee pulled it to 14-12 in the third on a thrilling 49-yard punt return by Chris Campbell. However, that was negated in a hurry after Spencer's Brett Gathman returned an interception 47 yards to paydirt late in the third to give the Tigers a 21-12 lead and a bunch of momemtum heading into the fourth quarter that they would capitalize on with Lensing's TDs.
The Braves tallied their final TD late in the game on a two-yard scamper by Tyler Jones.
All told, Spencer rushed 50 times for 337 tards, with Lensing completing just one of three pases for two yards total.
For Cherokee, Jones completed 22-49 passes for 229 yards, and also rushed six times for 33 yards and a TD. Double covered most of the night, Cherokee's leading receiver Chris Campbell was limited to five catches for 51 yards. Kyle Schuett had 12 catches for 106 yards and a TD, Mark Johnson three for 42, Schmidt 1-19, and Kyle Schuck one for 11 yards.
Tyler Lunsdgaard led Cherokee on defense with 16 tackles, while Mark Johnson had 15, Tim Jones 14, and Campbell 10.
The Braves rang up 17 first downs, to 11 by the Tigers.
"We'll get it going," said an upbeat Cherokee coach Tony Napierala, who said his staff was able to properly identify problem areas for the Braves in this opener, and that many of them are fixable.
"Spencer is a very good team. They're solid on both ends of the ball, with some great skill position players. They'll have a great year and will make a noise in 3A.
"We changed our defense after that first quarter and the boys did well. Our guys are working hard and that's all we can ask. We had some dropped passes and made mistakes that gave them two touchdowns. We're OK and we can't wait for next week's game."
In another non-district game, the Braves take an 0-1 record to 3A Storm Lake (0-1), which dropped a 36-0 non-district verdict to 2A Sheldon Friday night.