POCAHONTAS - Cherokee's defense had problems solving undefeated Pocahontas Area/Pomeroy-Palmer's quick-hitting double wing offensive formation and, as a result, came out on the short end of a 35-20 Class 2A District battle here Friday night.
The host Indians rushed out to a 19-6 halftime lead and then hung on in the second half as the Braves pulled to within 27-20 in the fourth frame, before the Indians countered with a long TD run late in the fourth to seal the deal.
Almost totally disdaining the pass, the Indians rushed 61 rimes for 305 yards, with speedy Jonathan Rittgers leading the way with 211 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns, including a 61-yard dagger in the fourth quarter that answered Cherokee's final TD that pulled the Braves back into it at 27-20 midway in the final period. Indian quarterback Avery Aden was just 0-4 passing for no yards.
The Braves couldn't get a running game going at all, totaling just 25 yards rushing on 18 carries, with Cutter Carlson leading the way with four carries for 17 yards. Dan Bieber rushed five times for eight yards.
Cherokee QB Mtt Pitts was 15-24 passing for 231 yards and two TDs and two interceptions. Pitts threw TD strikes to Bieber for 53 yards to get the Braves on the board in the first quarter to tie the game at 6-6, and to Cory Bryant for 21 yards in the fourth frame. Bieber tallied the Braves final TD on a 4-yard run. Pitts kicked the PAT after the last two TDs.
Rittgers scored three TDs for the winners on runs of two, one, and 61 yards. Aden tallied two TDs on runs of eight and two yards, as the grinding double wing offense controlled the ball throughout, including ball possession totaling nine of 12 minutes in the crucial third quarter.
Leading receivers for Cherokee were jacob Hummel five catches for 82 yards, Bieber five catches for 78 yards, Bryant two catches for 36 yards, and Kyle Schuck two catches for 35 yards, while being doubled throughout the game.
The Braves were hurt by frequent penalties - seven for 60 yards - that killed some good plays and contributed to poor field position time after time. The Braves had eight first downs to 14 by the Indians.
Nick Keith led the Cherokee defense, figuring in on 16 tackles, while Cody Stowater was in on 14, Kristian Freed and Schuck 13 apiece, and Bieber nine.
"We just couldn't stop them," said Cherokee co-head coach Kurt Reynolds. "We didn't tackle very well and those penalties really hurt at critical times. We did a nice job coming back to close it to 27-20, but then on their first play after our last TD, they took it in from 61 yards. On one play! That killed us.
"They controlled the ball and we'll face that same offense again next week at Clarion-Goldfield. We gotta get better this week and we will. The kids will be back. They know they can play better. We all know we didn't play as well as we can."
The Indians march on with a 4-0 record and a 2-0 District mark, while the Braves are 2-2 and 1-1 in District.