MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

October 14, 2013

Rougher QB leads much-needed win

Quintahj Cherry’s shoulders have had more on them than most sophomores.

Last year he had to start two games at quarterback as a Muskogee High  freshman —against Broken Arrow and Westmoore, of all teams — and was rudely introduced to Class 6A varsity football.

As the starter since day 1 in 2013, he battled as the team struggled to an 0-5 start, having his worst game against Westmoore two weeks ago. The Roughers have never started a season 0-5.

With Muskogee’s back against the wall Friday against a 4-1 Edison team, there wouldn’t be an 0-6 — thanks in part to a great bounceback effort from the sophomore behind center.

Cherry was 10-of-14 for 196 yards and three touchdowns. He would have had another on a 6-yard run off a fourth-down play but an illegal block nullified that. Still, for its urgency as much as the numbers,  it was a much-needed performance for this week’s Player of the Week.

He was 15-of-29 for 140 yards against Westmoore but with three costly first-half interceptions, one returned for a touchdown in a 48-7 loss.

It has, and hasn’t, been an education for the 5-10, 170-pounder, who still has two seasons of growing to do.

“I expected it to be pretty hard and I put in a lot of work this summer,” he said.

That work paid off early Friday.

Cherry spotted the cornerbacks playing five yards off his wideouts on the Roughers’ first possession and he immediately hooked up with Anthony King on a 35-yard reception, tossing to his right on that one. With King lined up to the opposite side on the ensuing play, he did the same thing, getting a 7-yard TD pass out of it.

On the next drive, Cherry hit Jy’Reece Vanhook for 32 yards, went to King on another screen for 24 and then a toss to the corner to Bryson Bell for 14 yards, making it a two-touchdown advantage with 3:48 to go in the first.

King’s other TD reception went for 37 yards on a catch across the middle of the Eagles’ defense to end the scoring.

Cherry hit on his first five passes, then for the most part, managed the offense in a leadership role.

“When I saw they were going to give us (the bubbles), I said we’re going to take these,” Cherry said. “Anthony went to the house on the first two and they finally started playing tight. Our run game worked well. We gained some confidence and got the W and that was big for us.”

Roughers coach Josh Blankenship offered his kudos.

“People quickly forget he’s a sophomore but he showed he’s extremely efficient and extremely smart with the ball,” he said. “If you eliminate last week’s first half, he’s done an awesome job.

“He makes good decisions. The thing I tried to reel him back from early in the season is when you’re out in space, get what you can and get down or get out of bounds. For us this week this is a playoff game and when you need your quarterback to do a little extra, he did. He ran by design and played grittier than we normally would want him to, fighting for extra yards and such. His decision-making was awesome.”

He has the ear of his quarterback for sure.  

“Coach kept telling me to keep everyone disciplined and stay on the gas. In the huddle I just said it’s like 0-0 each quarter and anything could happen. But it was nice to know we were playing from out front,” he said.

 Muskogee goes to Sapulpa on Thursday for another critical game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

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