CENTRE – Football is a game all about timing, and Cherokee County High School senior lineman Ryon Dunn had his down pat on Friday night in the Warriors’ season opener against Class 5A Carver of Birmingham.
Dunn blocked two first-quarter punts, both of which led to quick Cherokee County touchdowns. Those blocked punts set the tone in the Warriors’ 41-0 victory. It was the first shutout the Warriors (1-0) have posted since Sept. 9, 2016 at Anniston (37-0).
“I didn’t get it the first time (the Rams punted), but I was sitting there watching, making sure as soon as they snapped the ball,” Dunn said. “I thought ‘I need to put 100 percent effort into this and try to get to it.’ I knew it would help the team a lot, and that’s one of the main reasons I try to go for it.”
Dunn’s first blocked punt led to senior Whit Johnson’s 5-yard touchdown run. Junior kicker Daniel Mejia added the extra point to give the Warriors a 7-0 advantage with eight minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
After the Rams got off a punt that Dunn didn’t block, Warrior senior quarterback Slade Alexander connected with junior receiver Alex Weeks on a 38-yard pass to set Cherokee County up with a first-and-goal at the Ram 6-yard line. Junior all-purpose back Damien Ramsey took it in from there, pushing the Warrior lead to 14-0.
With just over four minutes to go in the first, Dunn blocked his second Ram punt, which the Warriors recovered at the 4-yard line. One play later, Alexander dashed in for the score, putting the Warriors up 21-0.
“Ryon did a really good job of just getting in there, timing it, being smart with it, and getting in there and blocking it,” Cherokee County head coach Jacob Kelley said. “It’s just about the guys lining up, being coached and playing hard. They did a good job. I’m proud as heck of them.”
Cherokee County scored once more before the half on a 27-yard touchdown connection from Alexander to Johnson, which gave the Warriors a comfortable 28-0 advantage.
The Warriors scored on their first drive of the second half after a big return from sophomore receiver Malachi Horton set up the offense at the Ram 40-yard line. Ramsey took care of things from there on a 5-yard run and then scored on a 35-yard burst to put the Warriors out in front 34-0.
Ramsey led the Warrior ground attack with 109 yards on just eight carries with two touchdowns.
Alexander later scored on a 2-yard run with 5:35 remaining in the third for the final. He ran for 35 yards on six totes with two scores and completed 5-of-13 pass attempts for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Cherokee County preserved its shutout when sophomore defensive back Jack Amos picked off Ram quarterback Brian Makkie with 4:51 remaining in the fourth. Makkie led the Rams by completing 10-of-21 pass attempts for 65 yards.
“A shutout is something we’ve been talking about ever since I got here,” Kelley said. “It’s been a long time since we got one. It’s one of those things where we started chirping in the third quarter. Everybody was like ‘Hey, knock it off.’ I’m proud of them. They deserve it. They’ve put a lot of work in this summer.
“It’s really, really good and exciting to get a big win like that over a bigger school. I’m just happy for our guys.”
Cherokee County hosts defending Class 3A state champion Piedmont on Friday.
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