Hometown Team – Cherokee opens 2021 in Corky Kell Classic against Mays

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There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the 2021 Cherokee Warriors, who open the 2021 Georgia high school football season Wednesday night against Mays (3-7 in 2020) in the Corky Kell Classic at West Forsyth High School.

Head Coach Josh Shaw is hoping his returning starters can build on an 8-3 season last year that advanced to the 7A playoffs for the third straight year. One of the biggest goals in ’21 is to make the postseason again. If the Warriors make it to the playoffs, it will be the first time in school history that the football program has made it to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons.

Cherokee High is the oldest high school in Cherokee County, opening as Canton High School in 1924. Cherokee High replaced Canton High in 1956.

After impressive wins over Cartersville and Rome in 2020, Cherokee finished No. 23 in last year’s High School Football America Georgia Top 25 statewide rankings. The win over Cartersville snapped the Hurricanes’ state-record 62-game regular season win streak.

The Warriors enter 2021 ranked in the High School Football America national rankings powered by NFL Play Football, the NFL’s initiative to provide fun and engaging experience for players of all ages and skill levels.

Cherokee received an Honorable Mention in our rankings, which puts the program between No. 201 and No. 300 in the nation.

Related: Preseason 2021 High School Football America national rankings

Led by Elite 11 quarterback AJ Swann, who has given his verbal commitment to Maryland, and wide receiver/defensive back Adarriuus Harshaw, a Utah-recruit, the Warriors are expected to have an offense that can score from anywhere on the field.

Swann is coming-off a junior season that saw him complete 158-of-262 passes (60.3%) with 23 touchdowns against just six picks. His quarterback rating last year according to his stats on MaxPreps was 111.9.

When the Warriors’ fall camp opened earlier this month, High School Football America’s Jeff Fisher spoke with Swann about competing at the Elite 11 quarterback competition in Los Angeles, plus the closeness of this team that has grown-up together.

Harshaw is a speedster, who led the team with 53 receptions last season. He averaged 16.5 yards per catch with seven touchdowns.

Shaw also believes the receiving corps is deep with Keegan Baker, Adam Fullen, Caleb Richardson and transfer Aidan Moore becoming targets for Swann.

On the offensive line, the coaching staff is moving Ryan Chandley from guard to tackle. Chandley will play his college football at Southern Illinois.

Stabilizing the O-Line will be returning center Ben Rice.

There’s a lot returning on defense. The entire defensive front returns, led by Army-commit Toby Thompson, who recorded 91 tackles last season. Seven of those tackles were for a loss with two sacks.

Shaw says “Tanner Dollyhigh (junior) and Jax Holcomb (senior) will also make their share of plays,” upfront along with “rising sophomore” Javon Hobson.

The linebacking corp is solid with the return of All-Region LB Tyler Goddard, who had 99 tackles last year.

Shaw believes that junior LB Kyan Simmons is “poised for a breakout season.” Simmons had 23 tackles as a sophomore.

The secondary is well-manned with Harshaw adding to the mix of returners Keegan Baker (free safety), Chase Goddard (strong safety) and cornerback Ryan O’Keefe. Keegan Baker had three interceptions last year.

On special teams, Shaw considers kicker Joel Stahl a huge weapon “with range well beyond 40 yards and the ability to put 90% of his kickoffs in the end zone.”

Below, you can listen to Coach Shaw talk about some of the players that he expects to help this year’s team achieve its goals.

Cherokee will be tested by a tough road schedule with five of the first six games away from Tommy Baker Field.

2021 Cherokee Warriors Schedule

8/18 – vs. Mays at West Forsyth HS in Corky Kell Classic

8/27 – at Sequoyah

9/3 – at Rome

9/10 – vs. Creekview

9/17 – at Cartersville

10/1 – at Woodstock*

10/8 – vs. Roswell*

10/15 – vs. Etowah*

10/22 – vs. Alpharetta*

11/5 – at Milton*

*Region games

Cartersville, Milton and Roswell are all ranked in the ’21 Preseason High School Football America 300.

Check-out the Cherokee Warriors website by clicking here

Editor’s Note: Hometown Team is a special feature created by High School Football America co-founders Jeff Fisher and Trish Hoffman to salute the community that is based in.

Related: First and Fisher: The Launch of Hometown Town

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About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.