Game of the Week: Unbeaten Galena to host 5-1 Cherryvale in 3A-District 7 opener

One week after taking control of the CNC League with a win over Columbus, the Galena Bulldogs look to remain perfect on the season as they begin their quest for a seventh straight postseason berth.

The Bulldogs — now 6-0 overall on the season — entertain 5-1 Cherryvale on Friday in the Game of the Week. It will be the Class 3A-District 7 opener for both teams.

“It is very important … the most important game of the season,” said Bulldog coach Beau Sarwinski. “If you win the first game of district, you control you own destiny. If you lose, you have to win out and hope everything works to your favor in order to get in the state playoffs.”

Galena is coming off an impressive 33-29 home win over Columbus — the top-ranked team in Class 4A-Division II — in a battle of unbeatens. The Bulldogs led by as many as 19 points in the first half but watched the Titans storm all the way back to take the lead. Galena needed a touchdown run from JC Shelton in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory and remain perfect in CNC play at 5-0.

“It was a big game for our kids,” Sarwinski said. “They have worked hard year round to compete in games like this. The CNC league championship is one of our goals each year, and winning this game puts us closer to that goal. We are playing good football at the right time. Heading into district play, we are right where we want to be.”

A year ago, Galena captured the District 7 championship, which included a 40-0 victory at Cherryvale. The Bulldogs went on to reach the regional round of the Class 3A playoffs. GHS has won nine straight regular-season games.

“Galena is going to be a challenge for sure,” said Cherryvale coach Harry Hester. “Last year, we gave one of our best efforts of the season against Galena, even though it may not have shown on the scoreboard. I have no doubt that we will go out there and give everything we have.”

The Chargers have to feel good about the way they are playing heading into district play. Since a loss at Humboldt in week two, Cherryvale has captured four straight wins as it stands at 5-1 overall. Last week’s 22-16 home win over Montgomery County rival Caney Valley put CHS in position to claim a share of the Tri-Valley League championship for the second time in three years.

Cherryvale beat Caney Valley despite being outgained 362-206 in total yardage. The team’s defense has been a key factor in its success this season. Last week, the Chargers forced three turnovers and held the Bullpups out of the end zone on three separate red-zone opportunities in the first half.

“Our defense has been playing well all season long,” Hester said. “They stepped up in key moments for us to beat Caney. Overall, we’ve been cutting down our mistakes and cutting down the turnovers. We are playing well. Now we’ve got a big challenge against Galena.”

Cherryvale has already clinched a fifth straight winning season. The Chargers are seeking their 11th postseason appearance in school history, including a fifth trip to the playoffs under Hester.

Including last year’s outing, Galena has won three straight and eight of the last nine meetings against Cherryvale. The Chargers’ only victory during that stretch came in the 2013 Class 3A playoffs as they beat the Bulldogs 32-18 in the bi-district round.