For the second year in a row, the Cherokee Warriors opened their season with an easy win over an Atlanta Public Schools team in The Corky Kell Classic, this time beating Mays 52-6 on Wednesday at West Forsyth.
The Warriors (1-0), led by three-year starting quarterback AJ Swann, jumped to a 38-6 halftime lead. The senior 4-star, who is committed to Maryland, finished 14-for-18 passing for 247 yards and four touchdowns to one interception.
“We had great preparation this week,” Swann said. “We were ready to get back out here and show everybody on live TV what we’re capable of. I think starting off with a win is a big confidence booster. It gives us momentum heading into the season. We started off with a win last year and went 6-0 and that helped going into region play.”
Last year, the Warriors opened with a 38-12 win over Carver in the first post-pandemic high school game played in Georgia.
Cherokee broke the game wide open in the second quarter when it outscored the Raiders 35-6. The scoring started with a 40-yard touchdown from Swann to Joel Stahl, which came following a Raiders lost fumble. The Raiders’ next possession ended with the Warriors’ Toby Thompson recovering a fumble and returning it 5 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-0 with 9:29 left in the half.
Mays (0-1) would respond its next drive with a Quintavious Johnson 17-yard pass to Saulamon Evans to make it 17-6.
The Warriors quickly responded with an Aidan Moore 36-yard touchdown reception from Swann, and would close the half with two more unanswered touchdown passes from Swann — a 24-yarder to Moore and a 15-yarder to Utah-commit Adarrius Harsaw.
For good measure, the Warriors tacked on two more unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter, with Zi Johnson scoring on a 2-yard run and Moore completing a 26-yard pass to Pops Jameson.
The unranked Warriors, who compete in Region 5 of Class 7A, went 8-3 last season to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive year. Led by Josh Shaw, who is in his 10th season, the Warriors will look to advance past the second round for the first time since 2004, when they reached the 5A quarterfinals.
In addition to Swann and the offense, the Warriors were led on defense by Javon Hobson’s two sacks.
The unranked Raiders of 6-4A appear as though they’re continuing a downward trend that began last season when they finished 3-7 — their first losing season since 2002. When they finished 10-2 in 2019, that marked the last of five seasons of at least 10 wins in a six-year span. Should they again miss the postseason, it will be the first time since 2000, 2001 they failed to qualify in consecutive seasons.
The Raiders were led by Johnson’s 67 yards on 11 carries. He was also 11 of 27 passing for 162 yards, a touchdown and interception.
The team buses for Mays arrived minutes before the scheduled kickoff of 5:30 p.m., causing a 30-minute delay.
Wednesday’s game marked the first in the 30th installment of the Kell Classic, with games continuing every night through Saturday.
Official stats for the Warriors-Raiders game can be found here.
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