Perfect Regular Season Ends as Roswell Heads to Playoffs
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by Ty Simons
Defense Holds Cherokee in Fourth Quarter for 20-14 Victory
ROSWELL–For the second year in a row, the Roswell Hornets have ended the regular season as undefeated region champions as the team beat Cherokee High School 20-14.
The Warriors were never quite able to take the lead over Roswell at any point in the game, but they were always right behind the Hornets, never allowing more than a 10-point difference in the score. Roswell’s defense in the fourth quarter, featuring a critical interception by defensive back Xavier McKinney and a game ending sack by Max Boyd and Koby Cumberlander, ensured that the Warriors were unable to mount a late-game comeback for the win.
Roswell began an otherwise scoreless first quarter with a touchdown drive covering 68 yards. Wide receiver Kentrell Barber covered about half of that distance with two receptions, including the touchdown pass, both of which were good for 16 yards. In six carries, running back Sheldon Evans covered 28 yards, accounting for most of the team’s rushing yardage on the drive.
The next offensive series looked promising for the Hornets as well, with a big pass to tight end Tyneil Hopper for 24 yards and a 23-yard run from Christian Ford bringing the ball within scoring range. A Cherokee interception and a subsequent breakout run for dozens of yards swung momentum in Cherokee’s favor, though. Xavier McKinney did manage to stop the Cherokee ball carrier short of the endzone on his 71-yard carry, and the defense forced a turnover on downs from there.
Cherokee put seven on the board on their next drive to tie the game in the early stages of the second quarter. From there, the Hornets pushed ahead by three before the half thanks to a 40-yard field goal from kicker Turner Barckhoff.
Roswell’s last touchdown of the night came on the first offensive series of the third quarter. Quarterback Malik Willis held onto the ball for 31 yards in four plays, and Evans finished the Roswell drive out with a six-yard run for the score. Although the Cherokee defense scored a touchdown after a recovered fumble, their offense was unable to find much success against Roswell on either of their drives in the quarter. In one instance, the Hornets’ defense managed to make four tackles in the backfield in six plays for a combined loss of 20 yards. McKinney started with a sack for a loss of 5 yards, Boyd added two tackles for a combined loss of 6 yards, and Cumberlander finished the series with a nine-yard sack that accounted for Cherokee’s biggest single-play loss of yardage that night.
The defense kept that pressure on all the way through the final quarter to prevent the Warriors from scoring. The Hornets widened their lead by three early on in the quarter with a 20-yard field goal, but with only a six point gap between the two teams, it was anyone’s game. A Roswell fumble late in the quarter put Cherokee in an excellent field position only 11 yards from the endzone. Just two plays later however, McKinney snagged the critical interception that prevented a go-ahead touchdown for Cherokee.
The Warriors’ final opportunity to score came in the dwindling final seconds of the game as the team made a sprint down the field, covering 41 yards in four plays. As an appropriate end to a dominant defensive game, Cumberlander finished it with his third sack of the night in the final seconds to secured a hard-fought win for Roswell.
With another victory behind them, the Hornets head into the GHSA AAAAAAA playoffs eager to make it all the way to the Georgia Dome for the second year in a row. Roswell will host their round-one game against Pebblebrook High School of Mableton this week. Assuming that the Hornets win that game, they will then play either Archer or Peachtree Ridge in the next round.