By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando and Loudoun County are two different teams from last year, but that doesn't mean this year's game won't be just as competitive and well played.
The Raiders knocked off the Warriors, 13-10, last year on a field goal in the final minutes of the game. Both teams made the playoffs and finished second in their district. The two teams meet again tonight at Loudoun County at 7 p.m.
Sherando lost a lot on defense to graduation, but the Warriors' offense is even more explosive.
Sherando is averaging 32.3 points and 312.7 yards per game, and that hasn't surprised the players.
"We have a lot of athletes on this team, so I knew we could put points on the board," Sherando quarterback Jalen Brisco said. "We're very athletic on offense, but it all starts with the offensive line. They've done a great job this year."
One of the big keys to Sherando's offense has been the running game. Running backs Joseph Ojo and Tre Porter have combined to rush for 580 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
Sherando coach Bill Hall said he's fortunate to have two great backs on the team. Porter starts and plays a lot on defense, which allows the Warriors to start Ojo and give him the bulk of the workload.
"Tre's still going to see time at tailback and splitback, which adds another dynamic," Hall said. "You're going to see Porter, you just don't know when."
Ojo, a junior, played JV last year and has made quite an impact on the team in his first varsity season.
He has rushed for 432 yards on 54 carries and seven touchdowns.
Ojo was quick to point out that he had some help in picking up a lot of the yardage he's gained this year.
"I just go out and try to run the best I can," Ojo said. "I couldn't have done it without the offensive line. I'm very thankful that I have the offensive line in front of me."
Hall said the offensive and defensive lines have been a real strength to the team so far. The Warriors lost all of their starting linebackers from last year to graduation.
Sherando has allowed only 15.0 points per game on defense so far this season.
Loudoun County lost even more to graduation than Sherando did. The Raiders return only three starters from last year's squad.
However, the Raiders have more than 90 players on their team, which makes it a little easier to fill the holes.
The biggest loss to graduation for the Raiders was tight end/linebacker Chase Williams, who now plays for Virginia Tech. Loudoun County coach Todd Hill, a former Handley coach and athletic director, is still using the same offense and defense so Hall wasn't expecting much to change for the Raiders.
"We're expecting to see the best ballclub we've faced so far," Hall said. "We know they're well coached, since they're coached by Todd. We know they're going to be really aggressive on defense. And they kind of take what you give them on offense."
The Raiders, who are led by quarterback Marcus Crews, beat Musselman, 14-13, in their season opener. In their second game, the Raiders hammered Tuscarora, 49-0. Running back Spencer Green had 143 yards on the ground in the win for the Raiders, along with four touchdowns.
Brisco said the Warriors still remember last year and what happened against the Raiders. Brisco said this year's team is different, and is determined to have a different outcome tonight.
"I think this year's team is more focused," Brisco said. "It's not that we didn't work hard last year, but I think this year's team works even harder. We're on a mission this year, and hopefully we'll come out with a win."