Dogs fall to 'desperation'
Cherokee moves star tailback to quarterback;
move pays off with three late scores, 27-21 win
By MARK TOWNSENDmtownsend@cherokeescout.com
Tuesday, October 2, 2007 8:02 PM CDT
Cherokee – A 21-7 lead with 15 minutes to play and an opposing quarterback forced to play the position for the first time in his life. Sounded like a recipe for a night of celebration for the Bulldogs.
However, that desperate move by the Braves coaching staff Friday night paid off as tailback Langston Wood took over behind center, working exclusively out of the shotgun. Wood was able to successfully handle the duty, rushing for 151 of his game-high 217 yards in the final 15 minutes, leading Cherokee to a huge 27-21 come-from-behind Smoky Mountain Conference victory.
Despite all of the comeback efforts, Murphy had a pair of chances in the fourth quarter to take the lead, but a pair of turnovers ended the drives and ultimately the chance of
“The next time we have a big game, you just have to play better than that,” Murphy coach David Gentry told his team after the game. “They’re a good football team, but I think you’re a better football team. You just didn’t show it tonight.”
The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-1) will be kicking themselves figuratively this week because for three quarters, they did everything except build a bigger lead, squandering several scoring chances. Thomas Nelson’s defense shut down the vaunted Cherokee ground game, never allowing Wood, Carr Crowe or Mike Stamper to break free for the type of big plays that decided last year’s game.
“The Cherokee loss hurt for several reasons,” assistant head coach Caesar Campana said. “First, because it had such huge conference implications; secondly, because we lost a two touchdown lead late in the game; thirdly, and most disappointingly, was that our overall effort and execution was not nearly where it needed to be for such a big game, especially on offense.”
Campana said the Dogs should have gone into the halftime break with at least 28 points on the board.
“If that had been the case, unless they lined up Langston at scorekeeper, it wouldn’t have made a difference,” he said. “Our defense had been playing so well, but our offense failed to convert those opportunities. That put us into position to have to fight and scratch at the end, when, again, we had a breakdown in execution.”
Campana said the coaching staff had never seen any film of Wood taking the ball behind center because Cherokee had never done it in a game before.
“Give credit to them for having it in their package,” he said. “At that point in the game, they were scrambling for something to do offensively, and they must have felt like they had nothing to lose by giving it a shot.”
The formation – Wood flanked by running backs Don Craig and Carr Crowe – is a version of the single-wing offense, which has been around for more than 80 years and is similar to the one used by the Florida Gators.
“What that formation does is two things,” Campana said. “It’s like adding a player on offense, since the quarterback is now a real run threat. No. 2, it put Wood in a position to run downhill, whereas in the split-backs formation, you can make him stretch runs left and right if your ‘spill’ technique is good.”
The Dogs made several adjustments to the formation, but a defense loaded with young players never was able to fully shut it down.
“With as many young kids as we have on the field on defense, it’s a lot to expect them to be able to adjust on the fly to something they’ve never seen,” Campana said. “We’re not displeased with our defense. We should have answered their scores when we got the ball back.”
The initial stages of the game looked bright for the Dogs as they marched 87 yards on their first drive, Luke Charles capping the nine-play drive with a 1-yard plunge to open the scoring.
Murphy’s defense rose to the occasion, quieting a huge Homecoming crowd by stopping the first four Cherokee drives, three of which started inside the Dogs 35-yard line.
The defense limited Cherokee to just 40 yards of offense during this stretch, forcing a pair of turnovers on downs, a fumble and an interception. Cherokee finally got on the board with 3:53 to go in the half, Mike Stamper finishing off a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a seven yard run up the middle.
One thing the Dogs have done well so far this year is run the 2-minute offense, and it was on display again Friday night as Charles calmly led Murphy on an 83-yard drive that took 2:39 off the clock. Charles converted one third down – hitting Ian Reese at the first down marker after scrambling to his right – and Patrick Canizio put the team in scoring position with a 20-yard sprint over the right side that ended at the two-yard line.
Rickey Edwards finished the drive with a two-yard walk blast into the end zone. Charles hit Georgie Kerber in the front the end zone for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-7.
The Dogs sent a message to the home fans again to open the second half, halting a Cherokee drive inside Murphy’s 15-yard line, as Zack Robertson, Ben Ledford and Jose Alvarez combined to sack Stamper for an eight-yard loss on fourth down.
After the defense stuffed a second Cherokee drive for an 11-yard loss, the Murphy offense exploded with Canizio, who shot through a huge hole in the middle of the line, cut right and scampered 52 yards for the score.
With less than three minutes to play in the quarter, the Dogs looked to be in complete control of the game on both sides of the ball, until Cherokee found that desperation truly is the mother of all invention.
With the game tied 21-21 and just 3:35 left in the fourth quarter, Murphy had a chance to put all the pressure back on the home team, who were out of timeouts. However, a drive that began at the Dogs’ 25-yard line first suffered a holding call that negated a 20-yard Canizio run down to the Cherokee 15-yard line. Then it ended with a failed fourth and one attempt at Cherokee’s 36-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, Wood got to the outside for the first time all night and sprinted 61 yards down to the Murphy 3-yard line. One play later, Cherokee had its first lead of the night, despite failing on a two-point conversion – a move by coach Scooter McCoy that brought back memories of the 2005 game that saw Cherokee lose because they missed a similar conversion late in the game.
The Dogs had one final shot to tie or win the game, needing to go 70 yards in 2:30. The drive made it all the way to the Cherokee 21-yard line before an interception by Stamper on a third and eight play ended the threat.
Canizio had his third straight 100-yard game, leading the Dogs with 181 yards on 23 carries. Charles struggled uncharacteristically, never really finding a groove with his receivers, finishing a 9 for 25 night for 166 yards.
Rushing – attempts-yards
Murphy – Canizio 23-181 1 TD; Reese 5-5-25; Charles 5-10; Killian 1-6; Edwards 1-2 1 TD; Brown 1- minus 5. Cherokee – Wood 27-217, Crowe 19-85.
Passing – comp-att-yards-TD
Murphy – Charles - 9-25-166, Int. Cherokee – Stamper 1-4-31, Int. Receiving – number-yards-TD. Murphy - 3-75, Canizio 2-21, Williams 2-40, Kerber 1-15, Killian 1-0. Cherokee - Swayney 1-31.
Returns – Kickoffs - Brown 4-73. Punts – Brown 1-5.
Defense - ta - tackles; tfl - tackles for loss; sa - sacks; ff - forced fumbles; rf - recovered fumbles; int - interceptions; pb - passes broken up.
Stiles 15 ta, ff; Kerber 14 ta, 3 tfl, int; Curtis 14 ta, 4 tfl, rf; Ledford 14 ta, tfl; Lovingood 14 ta, 2 tfl, sa; Alvarez 11 ta, tfl; Robertson 7 ta, tfl; Rose 7 ta; Lockett 7 ta; Reese 6 ta; Kernea 4 ta; Brown 1 ta; Killian 1 ta; Edwards 1 ta; Devine 1 ta; Johnson 1 ta, tfl. Team totals 119 ta, 9 ta, sa, ff, rf, int.
9:06 – Murphy – Luke Charles runs middle for 1 yards and touchdown. Rhett Kephart kick no good. 6-0.
3:53 – Cherokee - Mike Stamper runs middle for seven yards and touchdown. Cory Walkingstick kick good. 6-7.
1:14 – Murphy - Rickey Edwards runs middle for two yards and touchdown. Charles to Georgie Kerber for two-point conversion. 14-7.
2:54 - Murphy - Patrick Canizio runs middle for 52 yards and touchdown. Kephart kick good. 21-7
0:00 – Cherokee – Langston Wood runs middle for nine yards and touchdown. Walkingstick kick good. 21-14.
5:48 – Cherokee – Stamper runs middle for one yard and touchdown. Walkingstick kick good. 21-21.
2:35 – Cherokee – Carr Crowe runs left for three yards and touchdown. Two-point conversion no good. 21-27.
Photos by MARK TOWNSEND/Cherokee Scout
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