ORANGE CITY - Northwestern's College's football stadium is beautiful, but the outcome of the Cherokee Braves Class 2A District Substate game played there on October 29th against host Orange City Unity Christian was ugly, as the 9-1 Knights slammed the 5-5 Braves, 44-20.
The game was thrilling in the first half, as both teams busted loose for exiciting, long touchdown runs. When the dust settled, the Knights clung to a 27-20 halftime lead, with the Braves hot on the trail.
Unity Christian next hosts 7-3 Ojoboji here on Monday night, Nov. 3. The Pioneers beat Hull Western Christian 27-14 in their 2A Substate action Oct. 29 in Milford.
The Braves led 14-6 in the first quarter after Cherokee's Kyle Schuett returned the kick-off for the Braves first possession 80 yards for a touchdown. Schuett tallied again from 11 yards out to make it 14-14 after the first quarter. The Knights then scored two more TDs in the second period before the Braves scored on a 14-yard TD pass from Tyler Jones to Kyle Schuck late in the first half.
The Knights rushed the ball 48 times for 318 yards, with all-stater Aaron Floen leading the way with 23 carries for 194 yards and TD runs of 45, three, and 59 yards. Kameron Gradert rushed eight times for 53 yards, and also had a 94-yard kick-off return for a TD. UC quarterback Ryan Hoekstra was 2-4 passing for 31 yards.
Cherokee rushed 34 times for 95 yards, and Jones completed 10-20 passes for 102 yards, one TD, and two interceptions. Nick Parker had six carries for 34 yards, Jones 15 carries for 24 yards, Schuett nine carries for 12 yards, and Matt Pitts five carries for 13 yards.
Gritty Cutter Carlson led Cherokee's defense with 13 tackles, while Jones was in on seven, Tyler Lundsgaard and Pitts six apiece, and Nick Keith and Danny Bieber four each.
"We just couldn't get it going," said Cherokee coach Kurt Reynolds. "They are big and their line wore us down in the second half. They're a good team and their backs are really quick. That Floen is a hand full. We couldn't get our offense in rhythm all night. We just couldn't get going for whatever reason.
"The kids gave a good effort against a team that does what it does well. We had three key players (Schuck, Schuett, Matt Koch) banged up and that didn't help us at all.
"This has been a great group of kids, a fun group to work with. We've had our ups and downs, but all in all this was a fun year. We improved from start to finish and that's important to coaches. It was a lot of fun going to practices and games with this team. We're very proud of them and their parents and fans should be very proud of them. Start to end, we got a lot better and that's all you can ever ask."