Polished Diamond: Warrior sophomore lineman earns All-Cherokee County defensive honor

Cherokee County High School’s Tae Diamond tries to break a tackle of a Trion defender last season. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CENTRE – Defensive lineman Tae Diamond certainly didn’t suffer through a sophomore slump this past football season for the Cherokee County Warriors.

He became a sophomore sensation.

As a freshman in 2021, Diamond delivered 53 tackles, including 19 for loss, with 8 ½ sacks, three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdowns) and a safety for the Warriors. He eclipsed most of those marks in 2022, with 98 tackles, including 27 for loss, with a whopping 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two passes batted down in helping the Warriors (12-3) finish as Class 4A state runner-up.

Head coach Jacob Kelley did his part to make sure Diamond wasn’t going to suffer a sophomore slump. He started polishing Diamond last January in the weight room, trying to “break him” or at the very least “challenge him.”

“Just seeing his growth in two years and seeing how much he embraces the work is probably my biggest excitement and joy when it comes to him,” Kelley said. “He comes in and welcomes the challenge. He’s a pleasure to coach.”

Diamond said he didn’t feel any pressure to top what he did as a freshman in 2021. He just felt he still had a point to prove.

“I wanted to prove I’m the best defensive player in the state of Alabama,” Diamond said. “I came into the offseason ready to work. I didn’t miss a single summer workout. I wanted to work. I’m not even done after what I did this season. I’m going to get even more next season.”

Who’s to argue with Diamond’s confidence?

He’s already picked up a pair of all-state honors, including a first-team selection this past season. On Christmas Day, Diamond was chosen as a finalist for the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 4A Lineman of the Year. And now, he can say he’s the best defensive player in Cherokee County for 2022.

The Cherokee County football coaches recently selected their all-county team, headlined by Diamond on the defensive side of the football.

“Having 20 sacks is a special season,” said Kelley, the All-Cherokee County Coach of the Year. “A lot of those plays came in crucial moments in the games throughout our season, and if you watch our film, there is a ton of missed holding calls on him. There were plans in place to make sure 21 (Diamond’s number) doesn’t affect the outcome, but a lot of times it still got affected by him.”

Diamond said he didn’t realize he had 20 sacks until defensive coordinator Bret Henderson told him after the season. He attributes his gaudy numbers to his fellow defensive teammates, which include his older brother, senior linebacker Demarious Diamond – himself also an all-county selection.

“I wanted to be on the strong side and let my brother shine from the weak side because it was his senior year. I wanted him to get some recognition,” Tae Diamond said. “I don’t really know how I got into position to make all them sacks. I just did. I wasn’t thinking about how many sacks I was going to get. I just followed the ball, got to the ball and made a play. I don’t worry about making big plays, being the only one on the field making plays or nothing like that. I’m a team player. If my team is doing good, then I’m straight with that. I’m not going to complain. I just want to play football. I don’t care about anything else.”

Kelley is excited to see what Tae Diamond has in store his junior and senior seasons.

“A lot of times when you have a great year, you turn around and there can be a human nature effect set in and you’re not as good. My key for him now is to make sure that slump doesn’t happen as a junior. I guess we need 40 sacks next year,” Kelley joked.

But it’s not a joke to Diamond. He honestly believes he can do it, especially with the talent the Warriors return around him next year.

“I got 20 this year. Why can’t I get 40?” he said. “I want to play football. I want to play at every level I can play at. I’m not done. I’ve got a lot more to prove than what I did this year.

“I feel like our team goal is to go back to state and bring the blue map home this time. I just feel like we’ve got to get back to work and put in the work we did last off-season, only more.”

In all, the Warriors had 18 players selected to the All-Cherokee County Team. Joining the Diamond brothers and Kelley from Cherokee County High School are Jacob Cornejo, Cade Hopper, Jack Amos, Malachi Horton, Haden Wheeler, Alex Johnson, Jeb Crane, Ben Frampton, Will Frampton, Tristan Brown, Alex Loyd, Landon Ransum, Dalton Chestnut, Connor Wilson, Zach Gaylor and Yestin Mejia.

Warrior honorable mention players are Antonio Hernandez, Cooper Martin, Jaden Wilson and Caleb Harbour.

Spring Garden (10-2) had 10 selections in John Welsh, Braxton Haney, Reece Winstead, Chapel Pope, Connor Bates, Cam Welsh, Tanner Ruark, Jacob Dempsey, Jacob Welsh and Mathias Williams.

Sand Rock (4-6) and Gaylesville (3-6) both had seven selections. Chosen from Sand Rock is Brian Giles, Ace Ashley, Bradley Jackson, Jace Turner, Trace Haygood, Gatlin Cox and Hugh Moore. Honorable mention Wildcats are Lucas McDaniel, Everett DeBoard and Morgan Tucker.

Chosen from Gaylesville is Briley Mitchell, Seth Lee, Tanner Eads, David Glenn, Bailey Glassco, Keylon Higgins and Kyler Bradley. Honorable mention Trojans are Braden Sharp, Hunter Allmond, Eli Bryson, Collin Hendon and Karson Ray.

Cedar Bluff (4-7) had seven selections in Kade Browning, Dylan Kinard, Hunter Jenkins, Bucky Leek, Eli McFry, Austin Richardson and Hagen Stallings. Tiger honorable mention players are Aden Green, Jacob Chambers and Hunter Stallings.

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