One team is a defending state champion, a year removed from a dream 14-1 season that included a Smoky Mountain Conference title. The other is a long-struggling program trying to create a tradition of competitive football.
Looks like a mismatch on paper, but when SMC teams line up to play, anything can happen.
This week’s edition of the Friday Night Rivals series of WNC football games televised on MY 40 features Andrews (2-6, 0-3) at Cherokee (4-3, 1-1).
The Braves suffered some significant graduation losses after claiming the program’s first 1A state title last season, but coach Kent Briggs has some talent on hand to make another playoff run.
Senior tailback Isaiah Evans (573 yards on the ground, 7 touchdowns) is on pace for a third straight 1,000-yard rushing season.
In his fourth year with the program, Evans has run for 3,572 yards and 50 scores.
Junior quarterback Bobby Crowe (1,337 yards passing, 13 TDs with just three interceptions) has been efficient, and his favorite target is breakaway threat Cade Mintz, a junior who has 35 receptions for 707 yards and seven TDs.
Defensively, Joaquin Layno (57 tackles) and Kyler Hill (49 stops) lead the way.
Andrews coach James Phillips is in a full blown youth movement to try and improve the fortunes of a program that has had just one winning season in 23 years.
The Wildcats have 19 underclassmen and just three seniors, and half of the 26-player roster are sophomores.
Looking to snap a streak of 13 straight conference losses over three years, the offense has been getting solid play from sophomore quarterback Tucker Holloway (565 yards passing, 293 yards rushing, 10 total TDs).
The ground game has been solid, with junior Landon White (622 yards rushing, 10 scores) and sophomore Gavin Wilson (497 yards, 6 TDs).
Defensively, sophomore Xavier Rattler leads the team with 20 tackles.
In a long-standing rivalry, Cherokee leads the all-time series 39-20.
Andrews has struggled in league play this season, losing to Rosman, Murphy and Swain County by a combined score of 127-35.
The Braves dropped a 43-28 decision to Swain County but knocked off Rosman 34-17 last week in SMC games.
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