The capabilities of Cherokee Trail quarterback Diamond Gillis were well documented by Mountain Vista heading into the playoffs. But even a scouting …
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The capabilities of Cherokee Trail quarterback Diamond Gillis
were well documented by Mountain Vista heading into the playoffs.
But even a scouting report could not help find a way to contain the
versatile and athletic signal-caller.
In fact, just the threat he posed with his arm and his legs
opened things up plenty for the host Cougars.
Gillis accounted for 211 total yards and two touchdowns as No.
15 Cherokee Trail limited No. 18 Mountain Vista to just 130 yards
and went on to win 28-6 in a 5A state tournament preliminary round
game held Oct. 31 at Legacy Stadium on the campus of CTHS in
This was the first 5A playoff appearance for Cherokee Trail,
which competed in Class 4A in previous seasons.
It was the third straight loss for the Golden Eagles, who see
their season end at 5-5.
“We just couldn’t find it tonight,” senior quarterback Eric
Anderson said. “They’re a good team and an athletic offense, and it
was tough to contain Gillis. It was tough to key on anyone in that
offense because they were so athletic. But I think they caught a
couple of breaks and did a good job of maintaining the momentum. We
just slumped at the wrong time.”
Fellow senior Brandon Miller said the better team earned the
right to advance.
“We just weren’t focused today, and they came out and played a
great game. They were just better than us today,” he said. “They
were beating us off the line of scrimmage and they deserved to
Cherokee Trail (7-3) took control of this game from the get-go,
grabbing an early edge with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up
five minutes on the game’s opening possession. Gillis moved well in
the pocket to avoid any potential pass rush by Vista and completed
four of six passes for 44 yards. The drive culminated with a 9-yard
touchdown run by Antoine Jones to make it 7-0 Cougars.
Vista responded with a strong if methodical drive of its own,
moving from its own 35 to the Cherokee 18. But once there a fumbled
handoff set the Eagles back four yards before, on third and 14,
Anderson was sacked by Kendall Gregory-McGhee for an 11-yard loss.
Kyle Anderson was then summoned, and the senior kicker delivered a
50-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The game would get away from the Golden Eagles thereafter.
Cherokee Trail went up 14-3 with 7:46 left in the half on a 9-yard
pass from Gillis to Michael Tasker and 21-3 with 48 seconds
remaining when Gillis found Stephan Dickens for a 2-yard
Vista appeared to gain some momentum going into the locker room.
Eric Anderson returned the ensuring kickoff 41 yards and then
converted on fourth down with a run of 11 yards on a fake punt. He
then connected with tight end Brandon Oswald for 8 yards with a
penalty taking the ball to the Cougars’ 23 with six seconds on the
clock. Kyle Anderson then booted a 40-yard field goal as time
expired, making it a 21-6 game at the break.
The Golden Eagles, however, found the going tough against the
Cherokee Trail defense throughout the second half, managing just
five first downs. A strong pass rush by the Cougars led to five
sacks of Anderson while a holding penalty took a 35-yard touchdown
run by Jesse Geary off the board midway through the fourth
“They played hard and came after us and got a lot of
penetration,” coach Ric Cash said. “They made the plays and we
didn’t. But we’re banged up, and I think that’s a key to success in
the playoffs: who comes in healthy. If you’re not healthy it’s
going to show, and that’s partly what happened to us tonight.”
Miller was one player for Vista who was not at full strength,
nursing an ankle injury. As a result, the explosive runner who
entered the game with more than 1,100 yards was held to 58 on 12
carries and was forced to the sidelines during the second
“Brandon is running at about 50 percent. His ankle is about to
fall off, but he was not about to sit on the sidelines,” Cash said.
“He ran as hard as he could, but you could tell he wasn’t the same
runner that he was all season and that obviously impacted our
offense. Other kids tried to step up and do the best they could to
cover for that, but we’re a different offense without Brandon
Cherokee Trail completed the scoring with 1:03 to play in the
fourth quarter on a 4-yard run by Niko Allen.
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