The Adairsville Tigers (1-0) defeated the Cherokee Bears in overtime Friday night by a score of 51-50 in its season opener. Adairsville was the lone Bartow County team to not play in Week 0 of the season, but the wait was well worth it for Tiger faithful.

Cherokee Bluff received the opening kickoff, and the Bears had a long drive that ended in a 31-
yard field goal. Adairsville was unable to answer on its opening possession as it muffed a punt and gave the Bears prime real estate. Cherokee-Bluff returned the favor by tossing an interception in the end zone.

The Tigers’ offense responded by scoring in two plays when Chris Roper scored a 73-yard rushing touchdown to give Adairsville a 7-3 lead with 5:28 remaining in the first quarter. Cherokee-Bluff quickly answered with a passing touchdown with two minutes left in the opening quarter to regain the lead 10-7. The Tigers seemed ready to shake off the early season rust after the game’s first 10 minutes, particularly Ethan Blome. The Tigers scored on back-to-back possessions as Blome scored on an 80-yard touchdown run and a 67-yard slant pass from Jonathan Gough. The quick-strike ability of Adairsville seemed to be back with the Tigers holding a 21-10 lead when the first 12 minutes came to a close.

The second quarter continued as the first had ended with Chris Roper finding the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Gough to give the Tigers a three-score lead, 28-10. The Bears sustained a long drive, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it a 28-16 game, but the Tigers seemed to be in control. After trading empty possessions, Cherokee-Bluff scored with just over 90 seconds remaining in the first half on a 25-yard pick-six to cut the Adairsville lead to five. After holding an 18-point advantage, Adairsville was merely up five entering the locker room for halftime.

Surely, the Tigers would rebound from the 13 unanswered points to close the first half and get right back to lighting up the scoreboard in the second half. Alas, that was not the case. Both defenses limited the big plays and kept the offenses out of the end zone and ended the third period the same 28-23 score. Even for the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, it appeared that both teams made the defensive adjustments to stymie the opposing defenses.

Don’t let this fool you, as there were still 50 more points to go up before the end of the game.

Cherokee Bluff kicked off the scoring festivities with a rushing touchdown with around five minutes remaining in the game, but the Bears failed to convert the two-point conversion making the score 29-28. Adairsville didn’t back down and had an answer. Caden Copeland scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers a 36-29 lead late in the fourth quarter. Had we not mentioned a barrage of points, you might think Adairsville had this one in the bag.

It didn’t. Not yet.

Cherokee Bluff immediately responded with a massive play of their own, as it scored a 77- yard rushing touchdown to tie the score at 36-36 with around three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Once again, Adairsville answered with Copeland, who scored on a 73-yard touchdown run to make the score 43-36 with 2:15 remaining. The Bears weren’t done either. Asher Wilson connected with Max Eubanks for a 65-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 43-43 with 1:39 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Adairsville wouldn’t score on the ensuing drive, but Cherokee-Bluff had a chance to win the game in the final seconds. The Bears got the ball back into Adairsville territory and attempted a game-winning field, but the kick hit the
left upright, sending the game to overtime.

Cherokee-Bluff got the ball first in overtime and scored on Wilson’s 1-yard scamper. Following the PAT, the Bears had their largest lead of the game and Adairsville had its back against the wall. The Tigers weren’t going to wait and responded right away as Roper scored on a 15-yard touchdown run to make the score 50-49.

So, go for the win or play for another round of overtime? These are the Adairsville Tigers. We know they live dangerously on the football field and gamble if dealt the right cards. They went for it. Roper received the handoff, found the end zone and the Tigers escaped the 2022 season with a thrilling 51-50 overtime win on the road.

Adairsville will travel to Rabun County next week looking to build off its relentless effort in Week 1. Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM.