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Friday, May 6, 2016

Braves sneak by Okoboji, 26-20

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cherokee defender Nick Keith closes in to put the stops on Okoboji quarterback Zach Jones during the Braves' opening District win over the Pioneers here Friday night. Photo by Vince Miller
Carlson's late TD fuels Cherokee rally

A roughing the passer flag on fourth down against Okoboji with one minute left in the game gave the Cherokee Braves new life and led to the eventual winning touchdown to hand the Braves an exciting 26-20 Class 2A District win here Friday night.

Trailing 20-19 and facing fourth and long, Cherokee quarterback Matt Pitts hooked up with receiver Jakob Hummel on a pass play that was stopped just one yard short of a first down, giving the Pioneers ball possession and the probability of running out the 60 seconds left on the clock.

Cherokee quarterback Matt Pitts hands the ball off to Cherokee running back Kristian Freed during the Braves exciting 26-20 District victory over Okoboji in Cherokee Friday night. Photo by Vince Miller
However, a roughing the passer penalty was whistled on Okoboji and the Braves regained possession. Workhorse Cutter Carlson then scored on a four-yard TD run and Pitts kicked the PAT to give the Braves the 26-20 victory.

The win was considered ugly by many, as the lethargic Braves, playing without fleet senior sparkplug Nick Parker, who suffered a collar bone injury last week and is out indefinitely, allowed Okoboji to stay in the game with defensive lapses and a mediocre offensive output.

Cherokee led 7-0 after the first quarter on a sweet 48-yard TD pass from Pitts to Kyle Schuck, who together, along with the gritty Carlson, shouldered much of the load on both ends of the ball for the Braves this night. Their play was yeoman as the Pioneers, knowing Parker was missing from the arsenal, doubled up Schuck, Pitts, and Carlson much of the night.

Cherokee's ace receiver Kyle Schuck pulls in a pass from quarterback Matt Pitts during the Braves big District win in Cherokee Friday night. Photo by Vince Miller
The Braves took a 13-7 lead in the second quarter as Pitts rambled in from one yard out to counter a Pioneer TD pass from Zach Jones to Eric Vaage that covered 32 yards against a faulty Cherokee secondary.

Then, with nine seconds left in the first half, the Pioneers scored another TD on a 42-yard pass play on third down and many from Jones to Bill Burgduff, who got in behind an unaware Cherokee defensive secondary to give the visitors a 14-13 halftime lead.

Cherokee scored in the third quarter on another beauteous 50-yard pass play from Pitts to Schuck, with Okoboju countering with an eight-yard TD pass from JOnes to Michael Peterson to take the 20-19 lead the Pioneers would hold until Carlson's critical TD in the closing minute.

Cherokee coach Neil Phipps listens to input from lineman Scott Long (61), as fellow lineman Tyler McMcLaughlin (74) listens in, during the Braves' win over Okoboji Friday night in Cherokee. Photo by Paul Struck
The Braves rushed 35 times for just 122 yards, with Pitts leading the way with 18 carries on 69 yards, and Carlson totaling 13 carries for 44 yards. Pitts was 11-22 passing for 207 yards and two TDs and one pick.

Okoboji rushed 36 times for 59 yards. Tate Hanson led the way with 14 hauls for 52 yards. Jones was 5-11 passing for 97 yards and two TDs and one pick.

Pitts had the interception for the Braves, and Pitts and Hummel also recoveed fumbles to lead the Cherokee defense.

Schuck led the Cherokee receivers with five catches for 152 yards and two TDs, and Hummel grabbed four for 37 yards.

Nick Keith led the Cherokee defense with eight tackles, while Kristian Freed and Cody Stowater had seven each. Schuck, Pitts, and Carlson also figured in on several tackles.

The Braves were victimized by an uncharacteristic 12 penalties for 107 yards, while the Pioneers were whistled for five flags for 35 yards.

"Our defense didn't play that badly, we just didn't play too smart on a couple occasions," said Cherokee coach Kurt Reynolds. "We can't be doing that. Penalties are a mental thing and we haven't been there before. But we hung in there and figured out a way to win it. Our front guys on defense played tough all night. We'll take the win, although it wasn't too pretty."

The 2-1 Braves play at Pocahontas Area/Pomeroy-Palmer (3-0) Friday night.

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