CHERAW ROUTS CHESTERFIELD TO COMPLETE PERFECT REGION SCHEDULE
BY JAY BENNETT
The 9th-ranked Cheraw Braves used a big-play offense and a bend, but don’t break defensive effort to post a dominating 45-17 win over the Chesterfield Golden Rams last Friday night at “The Battleground.” The victory avenged a 42-21 loss to the Rams in Week 0 and capped a perfect region slate for the second consecutive season. The win also allowed Cheraw to hold on to the “Phillips Bell” for the third year in a row and was the Braves’ fifth consecutive victory.Several more records were set last Friday night, as David Brown set a single-game record with 210 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while Josh Burkett shattered the interception record in a game with four. Tristen Campbell also set a single-season record with his 18th touchdown pass and Michael Cranford tied his own single-game scoring mark for a kicker with nine points. Baylen English added 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Campbell threw for 274 yards and three scores in the win.
Danzel Rivers continued his steller junior campaign with 333 yards in the air, while Makhal Gaston finished the night with seven receptions for 159 yards. The contest lasted for nearly three hours, as the Rams ran 71 offensive plays and the Braves had 59 snaps. Coach Billy Amick’s defensive unit racked up nine sacks in the win, as they limited the home team to only 29 rushing yards in 32 attempts.
The Braves improved to 6-4 with the victory, closing out a perfect 6-0 region record, while the Golden Rams finished the season with a 6-4 mark, but only 3-3 in region play. Cheraw earned the #3 seed in the Upper State Class AA playoffs and they will open with a home game against Ninety-Six, while Chesterfield got the #8 seed and they will travel to Chesnee to face the top-seeded Eagles.
“I am very excited and proud of the way that we played tonight,” Coach Johnny White stated after the win. “Our kids really wanted this game and they came outwith a great attitude. It is very important to go into the playoffs with some momentum and this group really has some right now. Winning the last five games is something to build on and this group is ready to go in the playoffs,” Coach White added.
The Braves won the coin toss and defered their option until the second half, so the high-powered Chesterfield offense got to get the football first. The Rams moved right down the field and got the pigskin to the 29-yard line, but a Tallon Campbell sack on third down and a quarterback pressure by Steven Douglas on fourth down, forced the home team to turn the ball over on downs.
Cheraw came out in ther wishbone formation, but they wasted no time in going to the air, as Campbell found David Brown on an out route, at the 40-yard stripe. Brown made one man miss and he was off to the races for a 73-yard touchdown. Michael Cranford added the PAT and the visitors had a quick 7-0 advantage with 7:57 left in the first period of play.
A facemask penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave the home team great field position, at their own 45-yard line, and Rivers went right back to the air. He hooked up with John Johnson on two consecutive aerials and then found Makhal Gaston for 32 yards to get the ball down to the Cheraw three-yard line. The Braves then stuffed Jaquan Harris in the backfield, on first and second down, and then they tackled Rivers at the five-yard line on third down. Steven Douglas and Baylen English then broke through the line and sacked Rivers at the 15-yard stripe, on fourth down, and the Braves held on downs to continue their early momentum.
“That goal line stand may have been the key moment in this game, as we were able to hold them out of the end zone and keep the early momentum that we had built up,” Coach White stated .The Cheraw offensive unit then mixed up the run and the pass on their next possession, as they ran out the rest of the 4:23 that was left in the first quarter.The Braves finished the opening stanza with 109 total yards and five first downs, while the Rams had 92 total yards and four first downs. Cheraw had run 13 offensive plays, while the home team had taken 18 offensive snaps. Lightning struck on the very first play of the second period, as Baylen English faked a handoff on the zone-read and dashed 40 yards for a touchdown, right down the middle of the field. Michael Cranford added the PAT and the Braves now had a 14-0 lead with 11:51 left before intermission. English’s run capped off an 85-yard march in 12 plays, as he was hardly touched after faking the ball to Anfernee Jackson.
The home team refused to quit though and they came right back with an answer on their next drive. The key play in the 74-yard scoring march was a 32-yard pass play from Rivers to Gaston, on a third down and nine play. Senerio Johnson capped the drive with an 11-yard scoring reception, as he caught the ball near the five-yard stripe and then broke at least two tackles before he hit paydirt. Michael Smith added the PAT and the Rams had cut the Cheraw lead to 14-7 with 10:01 stillleft in the second quarter.
Monte Pratt almost broke the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but he was tackled at the Chesterfield 30-yard stripe, after a 57-yard return. A personal foul penalty against the Braves backed the ball up to the 45-yard line and the offensive unit could not go anywhere. Two incomplete passes and a sack of Campbell, the only sack of the contest, brought out Josh Burkett to punt the ball away. Burkett got off a high floater that rolled dead at the Chesterfield 13-yard line.
Rivers went right back to the air, connecting on three of his next four passes to get the ball to the Cheraw 45-yard stripe, but two consecutive penalties on the home team backed the pigskin all the way up to the Chesterfield 33-yard line. It looked like the Braves would force a punt, but Rivers found Gaston once again and the junior receiver gained 39 yards, on third down, to pick up a first down. Jaquan Harris then fumbled the ball on the very next play and Steven Douglas fell on it for Cheraw, to end another Chesterfield scoring threat.
A personal foul penalty against the Braves backed the ball up to the 15-yard stripe and there was 4:27 left in the first half of play, so Coach White had a decision to make. He started out the drive by running the ball and English was able to convert on two third downs to get the ball out to the 40-yard stripe. Campbell then hookedup with Montel Myers and then David Brown and suddenly the ball was the the Rams’ 30-yard line. Campbell then found DeMarcus McManus for 22 yards, on a corner route, and then he spiked the ball. Josh Burkett then caught the next pass at the five-yard line, but he could not get out of bounds. Campbell had to spike the ball once again and he did so with 2.9 seconds left on the clock. Michael Cranford then came on and calmly booted a 22-yard field goal, as time expired, to give Cheraw a 17-7 lead at the halftime break. Cranford’s kick was from the dreaded right hash, as his boot capped the 80-yard, 15-play drive, to end the first half.
The halftime stats were very even, as Cheraw had 233 total yards and 11 first downs, while the home team had 256 total yards and they also had 11 first downs. “That field goal right before the half was very big for us. That kick gave us some momentum, plus we knew that we were getting the ball to open the third quarter,” Coach White said.
Coach White’s words were quite prophetic, as Josh Burkett returned the second half kickoff out to the midfield stripe and the Braves went right to work. Baylen English did most of the work on the ground, but a fourth down pass from Tristen Campbell to DeMarcus McManus kept the drive alive. English finished off the scoring drive with a very determined 12-yard scamper, as he broke at least three tackles along the way. Cranford added his third PAT of the night and the Cheraw lead was now up to 24-7 with 8:04 left in the third period Josh Burkett then kept things going for the Braves, as he stepped in front of a Danzel Rivers pass at the 30-yard stripe and returned the ball to the Rams’ 23-yard line. Burkett was hit hard at the end of the run and he fumbled the ball away. Jaquan Harris was right there to fall on it for the home team, as they got thepigskin back after the turnover.It looked like the home team would take advantage of their big break, as the Rivers to Gaston combination hooked up once again, this one for 39 yards, to move the ball down to the Cheraw 27-yard line. Josh Burkett would have none of that though, as the junior defensive back made a circus play on Rivers’ next pass.Burkett tipped the ball and then made a diving catch, for his second interception of the game, at the Cheraw 20-yard stripe Three runs by English gained ten yards and a first down, so it was time for another big play by the Braves. Campbell found David Brown on a simple slant pattern and the fleet-footed wide receiver scampered 70 yards for his second touchdown of the contest. Brown really turned on the jets, as he outran Makhal Gastonfor the score. Michael Cranford’s PAT was good and the Cheraw lead had grown to 31-7 and there was still 4:13 left in the third quarter. Josh Burkett then came up with his third interception of the night, on Chesterfield’s next possession, but the Braves could not take advantage of it. DeMarcus McManus and David Brown both had touchdown passes go off their finger tips, so the home team got the ball back on downs.Consecutive sacks by Aaron Hughes and Larry Strong backed the ball up to the Rams’ nine-yard line and after a 34-yard punt by Rivers, the Braves got the pigskin back at the Rams’ 43-yard line. David Brown then finished off his record-setting night with his best catch of the game, as he snared a pass near the Cheraw 20-yard line and then tightroped his way down the sideline for his third score. Cranford’s PAT upped the Cheraw lead to 38-7, as the third period finally came to an end.Josh Burkett then put the finishing touch on his spectacular night, as he picked off his fourth pass of the game and ran it back 40 yards for Cheraw’sfinal touchdown. Michael Cranford’s sixth PAT of the game was good and the Braves now had a 45-7 lead with 11:48 left in the contest.Jaquan Harris added a four-yard touchdown run and Michael Smith booted a 27-yard field goal, for the home team, to account for the 45-17 final score.“As I said earlier, I was very pleased with the team effort tonight from our group,” Coach White stated. “This team has really come a long way and we are not through yet. Our goal every year is to win the region championship and to make a deep run in the playoffs. We accomplished the first part of that, so now comes the playoffs. We play Ninety-Six first and all I know about them is that they will be very well-coached. They run a spread offense, which is patterned after Auburn and Clemson, so we will have out work cut out for us,” Coach White added “I would also like to thank all of the fans that came to Chesterfield tonight. That really meant a lot to the team. We will need a big crowd to come out this Friday night, as it looks like this will be our last home game. This team has really worked hard this season and they really feed off a loud home crowd,” Coach White said.
(OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK)
#17 Senior wide receiver, David Brown, set a school record with 210 receiving yards and three touchdowns in Cheraw’s 45-17 win over Chesterfield.
(DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK)
#1 Junior defensive back, Josh Burkett, also set a school record with four interceptions in last Friday’s game and he also returned one 40 yards for a touchdown in Cheraw’s win over Chesterfield.