With the ball, the Tigers used running plays to keep the ball in the middle of the field then junior Anderson Jacks kicked his fourth field goal of the contest, this one from 20 yards out, and Cleburne County earned a 41-38 win to spoil Cherokee County’s homecoming game.
Jacks’ winning boot came with a touch of extra drama. The snap was high, forcing holder Jeremiah McLeroy off his knee to catch the ball. CleburneCounty coach Michael Shrott said McLeroy bent down to get the ball on the kicking tee and Jacks, who had already planted his left foot, whipped his right leg around and through the ball. Jacks’ one-legged boot not only went between the uprights but landed well past the cross bar.
“Jeremiah just made a heck of a play right there to get that ball down and the kicker’s concentration was unbelievable to make that kick,” the elder Shortt said. Cleburne County (3-1, 2-1) steps away from region games this week, taking on visiting St. Clair County (2-2, 2-1), but the game remains an important one. The Saints from Odenville, who traditionally play well against the Tigers, are the only Class 4A or above opponent among Cleburne County’s three non-region foes and a win gives the Tigers potential tie-breaker points.
“We need this game because of that,” Shortt said. Against Cherokee County, Cleburne County scored the initial points of the game when Bolton broke a 33-yard run but the extra point attempt by Jacks failed. After that, the Tigers played catch-up for much of the game.
The Warriors got a 35-yard touchdown pass for a 7-6 edge and almost immediately thereafter returned an interception for a touchdown and a 14-6 lead. A 62-yard scoring run from speedster Ty Green made it 21-6. Before the first quarter ended, Brandon Horn scored for Cleburne County on a 24-yard run and Isaiah Ware picked up a 2-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 21-14.
The scoring pace slowed considerably in the second quarter. Cherokee County got the only touchdown of the period, sandwiched between field goals of 27 yards and 30 yards by Jacks. Jacks’ second kick came with 12 seconds to play before halftime and left the halftime score 28-20 in Cherokee County’s favor.
The Warriors scored first in the third quarter, bumping their lead to 35-20.
Cleburne County got three points back when Jacks hit his third field goal of the game, this one from 35 yards away, with 6:56 left in the third. Jacks’ bootcompleted the third-quarter scoring.
Bolton got the final quarter started right for the Tigers with a 24-yard touchdown run and Jacks’ extra point made it 35-30. “I could already start to see the conditioning we do was starting to pay off,” the Tigers’ coach said. “I could start seeing they weren’t getting that push they were getting early in the game. I felt like that was big for us.”
A high snap by the Warriors on a punt attempt sailed through the end zone and added two points for Cleburne County, cutting Cherokee County’s lead to 35-32. Bolton’s 43-yard run then gave Cleburne County its first lead since early in the first quarter. That lead stayed at 38- 32 when McLeroy was unable to get the snap down. A late 32-yard field goal by Cherokee County’s Erik Burgess forced the overtime.
For the game, the Tigers had 441 yards of total offense, 343 yards on the ground and 98 through the air, and picked up 19 first downs. Cherokee Count finished with 296 yards rushing and 82 yards passing for 17 first downs.
Bolton ran 22 times for 236 yards. His long run of the evening was his 43-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. Padgett had eight carries for 51 yards. Ware ran seven times for 29 yards and Horn had 27 yards on two attempts.
Padgett completed four of his 14 passes for 98 yards. Cameron Kerr nabbed two passes for 58 yards. Horn made one catch for 37 yards and Ware had one for three yards.
Alex Sandmann led the defensive effort with 14 tackles. Griffin Turner made 12 stops. Cole Corkren reached double figures in tackles with 10. McLeroy made eight tackles. Shortt and Chad Brown each had seven stops. Grant Corkren recorded six tackles. In limited playing time, linebacker Geoffrey Teague made four tackles. Linemen Drake Williamson and Brint Johnson each had four stops as well.