Mountaineers edge CWYDespite five lost fumbles, Pursley gets first win at Tuscola
The Cherokee at Tuscola varsity football game featured two teams with brand new but very experienced coaches.
The Braves’ new leader is former Western Carolina University head coach Kent Briggs and Tuscola’s new commander is equally experienced Tommy Pursley.
In last year’s season opening game at Cherokee, Tuscola dominated the Braves by a score of 56-0.
But Briggs has done a complete overhaul of the program and the 2014 version of CWY gave the turnover prone (five) Mountaineers all they could handle before falling, 35-28, Friday night at C.E. Weatherby Stadium.
“To have six turnovers and beat anybody is hard to do,” said Pursley. “But we’ll take it. Cherokee played us tough and is a very good team. I tried to warn our players that this isn’t the same team they saw last year. These guys can play. Physically, they got a quarterback that has got to be a D-I prospect and those two little water bug receivers they got, we couldn’t tackle. Again, they have a good team and for us to get out of here with a win despite six fumbles, I am very happy with that.”
The Mountaineers took the opening kickoff and immediately put the ball on the ground at their own 35. CWY drove down to the 26 before the Tuscola defense stiffened and held the Braves on downs.
Tuscola responded with a 10-play, 74-yard drive that consumed four minutes as senior quarterback Parker Allen dove over from the two. Logan King hit the first of his five PATS on the night to give the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead with 3:32 left in the first quarter.
After forcing the Braves to punt, Tuscola made it 14-0 with 1:31 left in the first quarter on the first play from the line of scrimmage when Allen fired a 52-yard TD pass to senior Nathan Messer.
CWY got back in the game, scoring on a Brandon Buchanan 16-yard run with 11:55 left in the second quarter. After a failed two-point run failed, Cherokee sliced the deficit to 14-6.
The try for a two point conversion failed leaving the score at 14-6 just seconds into the second quarter.
Tuscola padded its lead to 21-6 when senior running back Houston McCracken scored on an electrifying 29-yard touchdown gallop at the 7:55 mark in the second quarter.
After Cherokee’s offense failed to move the chains on its ensuing possession, the Braves gave the ball back to Tuscola, which suffered a series of three straight fumbles. The first and second of the game came at the 3:31 mark of the second quarter. That fumble proved to be a costly mistake as the Braves promptly cashed the turnover in on a JJ Benjamin 16-yard TD run. He also ran in the two-point conversion to reduce the Tuscola halftime lead to 21-14.
Tuscola scored its fourth touchdown after a seven-play drive that culminated in another Allen QB sneak from the one to increase the Mountaineers’ lead to 28-14 with 5:05 left in the third quarter.
The Braves took ensuing possession to the Tuscola six before an interception stopped the drive. Just three plays later and 10 seconds into the final quarter, Allen connected with Damon McDaniels for an 83-yard TD pass to give the Mountaineers a seemingly comfortable 35-14 lead following King’s PAT.
But the Braves once again showed they are not the same team Tuscola played last year when, scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns to shrink the deficit to 35-28 with 5:58 remaining.
However, Cherokee (0-1) never got the ball back as Tuscola’s 12-play drive ended in Allen taking a knee in the Braves’ red zone as time expired.
Pursley’s triple option amassed a staggering 527 yards in total offense compared to Cherokee’s 346.
The Mountaineers’ ground game rushed the ball 41 times 338 yards as Caleb Ferguson had 131 yards on 12 carries and McCracken finished with 112 yards on 15 rushing attempts. Messer added 81 yards on the ground (8 carries), while Cody Wood contributed 12 yards on two rushes and Allen had two rushes (both TDs) for three yards.
Allen finished with an efficient 6-of-8 for 191 yards in the passing department, while McDaniels (1 for 82, TD), Messer (2 for 62), Wood (2 for 37) and Ferguson (1 for 12) were on the receiving end of their quarterback’s passes.
Tuscola (1-0) held a 19-15 advantage in first downs.
The Mountaineers’ next game is at T.C. Roberson (1-0) in Guy Ensley Stadium on Friday, Aug. 29.