If you're going to call them anything, call them well-coached, which is a testimony to the coachable fabric weaving its way throughout the 2009 Cherokee Braves football team, and the savvy, want-to work ethic of the Braves coaching staff that shows itself week after week.
Those attributes were never more prevalent than here Friday night when the Braves put it all together for a convincing, exciting 35-13 Class 2A District win over a dangerous East Sac County team.
With most Iowa high school football staffs rife with entry-level coaches because that's the way it is, the Cherokee Braves are fortunate to bank on the experienced continuity the Braves veteran coaches provide, from co-head coaches Neil Phipps and Kurt Reynolds, to seasoned assistants Lynn Jolly, Scott Koch, Mike Nixon, and Chad Osler.
The big plus is that the Braves listen and learn each time out, each practice, and have become a force in the District each season, especially this season as Cherokee counts on a majority of players who have had little or no varsity experience.
Cherokee's defense shut out the unpredictable Raiders offense in the second half, and tacked on a third-quarter TD to seal the deal.
The Braves rushed 36 times for 105 yards, with Cutter Carlson leading the way with 10 carries for 44 yards. Quarterback Matt Pitts hauled it 12 times for 27 yards, with that total skewed by an over-the-head center snap in the fourth quarter that forced Pitts way back to recover the errant snap.
After that long pass play, Shrader scored the game's first TD early in the first quarter on a five-yard run on fourth and goal, before the Braves answered with four straight TDs on an 8-yard pass from PItts to Dan Bieber, a 30-yard pass from Pitts to Schuck, a 40-yard pass from Pitts to Seth Mahnke, and an 8-yard pass from Pitts to Schuck. The Raiders then tacked on a 20-yard TD pass from Shrader to Wade Williams with 31 seconds left in the half.
The Braves closed out the scoring in the third period on a 3-yard run by Cutter Carlson after Schuck took the ball out of Jamie Weitzel's hands for an interception inside the East Sac County 10-yard line. Pitts successfully kicked all five Cherokee PATs.
"We did a lot of things right," said Cherokee co-head coach Kurt Reynolds. "In the first half we did a lot of nice things and our offense was rolling. Matt Pitts (QB) had it going, and Kyle Schuck was able to get open because they weren't double and triple teaming him as other teams have done.
"East Sac County has a senior dominated team and they don't quit. They play hard and just keep coming at you. Our defense relaxed a bit when we got up 28-7 and they scored that late TD in the first half. We can't let that happen."
Both teams rang up 11 first downs, and the Braves were whistled for six penalties for 40 yards, and the Raiders six for 55.
Cutter Carlson led the Braves on defense with a dozen tackles, while Dan Bieber had 10, Alanzo Ruble and Jakob Hummel eight apiece, and Nick Keith seven.
Schuck led Cherokee receivers with five catches for 90 yards and two TDs, while Bieber had three catches for 14 yards, Mahnke one for 40 yards and a TD, and Hummel two for 12 yards.
"We needed to be sharper in the second half, but this was a good Homecoming win for us," added Reynolds. "The guys played hard and we know what we need to work on. We scored early and that's something we've been focusing on. We just need to get sharper in our execution."
The Braves play at Buffalo Ridge in Holstein Friday night.