By Jerry Holsworth
STEPHENS CITY -- On paper, Sherando's 28-0 victory over Skyline on Friday night might appear to have been an easy win for the Warriors, but it was anything but that.
The Hawks' defense kept Sherando in check offensively for most of the first three quarters of the game, leaving the door open for a Skyline upset.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Warriors' powerful offensive line, and the insertion of tailback Tre Porter spelled doom for Skyline.
"I'm very proud of the way our kids played," Hawks coach Heath Gilbert said. "We fought hard through the first half. Sherando puts a lot of effort into their work in the weight room in the offseason, and it really showed in the second half. They just wore us down."
The game's statistics prove Gilbert's point. The Warriors were able to generate only two serious threats on the Skyline end zone through the first three quarters of play, and one ended in a Sherando fumble on the Hawks 3-yard line in the first quarter.
"I thought our kids didn't put their best foot forward in the first half," Warriors coach Bill Hall said. "I told them that they needed to come out in the second half and be more physical, and I thought they did a good job of that."
Despite the lack of production from the Sherando offense in the first half, the Warriors defense was able to provide the needed boost that kept the Hawks out of the end zone.
Skyline managed just 65 yards of rushing for the game, and 78 yards through the air.
Skyline quarterback Aaron Jeremiah completed just nine of 24 pass attempts.
"It was his first start, and, considering everything, I thought he did a good job," Gilbert. "He was under pressure from their defense the whole game, but he fought through that and gave a good effort."
One of Jeremiah's passing miscues proved fatal, though. With Sherando's offense unable to put points on the board in the first half, Tre Porter, playing cornerback for the Warriors, stepped in front of a Jeremiah pass with nine seconds left in the first quarter, intercepted it, and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.
With Sherando holding on to a narrow 7-0 lead heading into the second half, Hall chose to grind down the Skyline defense with the running game. After Skyline's first possession in the third quarter, the Warriors drove the ball 90 yards, chewing up the clock in the process, for their second touchdown of the game. Porter, this time as the Sherando tailback, got the score on a 12-yard run with 48 seconds left in the quarter.
Porter, who got the last four carries of the drive, however, shared the running duties with Joseph Ojo. Although Ojo didn't score a point for Sherando, he contributed 118 grueling yards rushing for the Warriors on 31 carries.
Porter, who rushed for 85 yards for the night, got all of his yardage in the second half.
"We don't consider Tre the backup tailback," Hall said. "He and Ojo are different types of runners and we utilize both of them. Any time Tre has the ball in his hands, though, it's a good thing for Sherando football."
Worn down by the relentless Sherando ground game, the exhausted Hawk defense became vulnerable in the final quarter. After a 28-yard punt by Skyline early in the fourth quarter, the Warriors marched the ball 49 yards for their third score of the game.
Ojo and Porter combined for all but 17 yards on the drive. Sherando quarterback Jalen Brisco hit tight end Terry Wood for the other 17 yards, setting up the Warriors on the Hawks 5-yard line.
Porter got the touchdown on the next play with a 5-yard run.
With Skyline pressing on defense in an effort to stop the Warriors' running game, Brisco found the passing lanes open. After two straight runs by Ojo, Brisco faked to his tailback and found Dominique Porter on a post route and hit him for a 74-yard touchdown pass to finish the scoring for the night.
Brisco finished the night 7-of-11 through the air for 146 yards.