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Ojo runs wild again as Warriors top Cougars


By Jeremy Stafford - jstafford@nvdaily.com

STEPHENS CITY -- Joseph Ojo did it again.

In a 59-20 stomping of Jefferson County, the Sherando tailback rushed for 218 yards and four touchdowns. He gained another 18 yards receiving and another 17 yards on a kick return.

Ojo's 81-yard touchdown sprint in the first quarter gives him three scoring runs of at least 80 yards this season.

The Warriors have yet to reach the district portion of their schedule, yet Ojo has peeled off 880 rushing yards, 917 all-purpose yards, and 13 touchdowns.

And Sherando offensive lineman Chris Gum has watched Ojo earn every single one of his yards.

"It's a great feeling just to watch him run down the field after you blocked, and he can just run down the field," Gum said.

Those feelings were few and far between last season.

A year ago, Sherando's backfield fell into a kind of limbo: Starting tailback Roger Smith ran swimmingly in the first half of the season before personal matters kept him off the field. Kadeem Blackwood and Tre Porter picked up the slack well enough -- Porter rushed for 363 yards on 69 carries -- but their performance gave little indication of how potent Sherando's rushing attack would be in the 2010 season.

Here's how potent it is: On only 43 carries, Porter already has 262 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Sherando averages 294.2 rushing yards every game.

The difference? It's Gum and that offensive line.

In 2009, Sherando's linemen got along well enough, but they didn't mesh. They knew each other, but they didn't necessarily enjoy each other.

Funny how much difference a year makes.

"I think we learned from last year," Gum said. "We learned the lesson that that's not gonna get it done, so we just tried to step it up."

Ojo said he felt like the offensive line was blocking well enough Friday night to get him five yards every carry.

His estimation was a little off: The Warriors averaged 9.9 yards per carry, an eyelash shy of a first down every time Sherando coach Bill Hall called a running play.

As for himself, Ojo averaged 12.8 yards a carry.

But although he'd never played behind this offensive line, Ojo had a feeling heading into this season that Sherando had something special brewing in the trenches.

"I knew last year even though I was on JV that coming back this year we were going to have a strong offensive line," Ojo said. "I knew we were going to have great things going for me and Tre running the football.

"I saw all the leaders on our team like Gum, [Justin] Salyers, Jack [Morris], all of them just block well."

Hall said that the superb blocking is hardly limited to the offensive line: On Ojo's long runs, it's the downfield-blocking of the Sherando wide receivers that deserves credit.
Still, it's hard not to be impressed with how far the offensive line has come in nine month's time.

"They put in so much time in the offseason together, spending time together outside of everything that we do," Hall said. "I think that ultimately that whole mesh is about relationships, and those guys have phenomenal relationships.

"They can communicate sometimes non-verbally without even having to know what's going on."

Quarterback Jalen Brisco even got in on the rushing yards to be had, though his runs were more nerve-wracking than Ojo's and Porters'. Midway through the second quarter, Brisco dropped back to pass, and as the pocket collapsed on his right, he stutter-stepped forward, leaving a Jefferson lineman in the grass. Brisco slipped as he recovered, maintained his balance, then skipped into the end zone for a 13-yard score.

Sherando has a bye this week before hosting James Wood on Oct. 8 to start district play. For the Warriors, the week off allows time for wounds to heal -- James Worker is still smarting from a leg injury in the season opener, and quarterback Lucas Tunison suffered a leg injury Friday night.



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