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.
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.
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.
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.