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By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Tre Porter slammed a locker. Jalen Brisco hung his head and drooped his shoulders. A Sherando assistant coach sat on the end of a locker room bench and counseled a cluster of linemen.
And when Sherando coach Bill Hall spoke, he did so softly, and his shoulders seemed to carry a burden.
Indeed, the scene in the Sherando locker room following a 7-0 loss to Martinsburg (W.Va.) on Friday gave few indications that the game comprised anything worth building on. Worth being proud of. Worth pointing out in the film room as something that should be repeated.
But, really, there were no burdens to carry, and there was plenty to build on. For one, Sherando's defense held Martinsburg's vaunted offense to only seven points. A touchdown. A trifle.
Martinsburg, it should be noted, is the defending West Virginia Class AAA state champion. And the Bulldogs return the bulk of that championship team this season.
"Sherando's got a great football team," Martinsburg coach David Walker said. "It was a great high school matchup. I think it was what everybody thought it was going to be, it was a hard-nosed game.
"I think they're going to win a lot of games, and coach Hall does a great job."
But where, exactly, does that leave Sherando? Especially considering the Warriors were decimated the last time they played the Bulldogs -- a 75-3 trouncing in 2002.
"Obviously I wanted to come out with a win, but I think we put up a good fight," Porter said. "A lot of people were doubting us -- said we were going to lose 75-3 like before.
"We knew that wasn't going to happen. We had to go out there on defense and offense and fight every single play, and I feel like we did that, we just came up a little short."
The Warriors seemed a bit deflated when Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter scored on a 7-yard run to start the second quarter. They even committed a personal foul on the ensuing kickoff.
But when Sherando players began bailing out of the game with cramps -- at one point in the third quarter it seemed hardly a play could go by before another player needed tending to -- the Warriors' second string filled holes nicely.
Then the third string did.
The injuries began as simple nuisances. Brisco was stretched out after halftime. Porter was, too.
But with 8:28 remaining in the third quarter, Sherando tailback Joe Ojo fell on the ground and clutched his leg, was stretched out for some time, then was carted off the field.
With 3:57 remaining, Porter started cramping up. Not too long after, Reid Entsminger limped off the field on his heels and was grimacing.
With 32 seconds left in the quarter, senior Lucas Tunison limped off with cramps.
Brisco cramped up with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter. At least he knew he put in the work to deserve it. Playing both ways, Brisco threw for 54 yards; had at one point ran for 23 yards before sacks brought his total down to seven; nabbed one interception, and caused and recovered one fumble.
"The bottom line is, it's not about [the injuries], it's about, how do you respond to those situations," Hall said. "Our guys did a good job responding to situations. There's no excuses for why you can't execute, so our guys did a good job."
Brisco also headed Sherando's final drive: with just over 4:00 remaining, he took off on a 14-yard sprint before watching his next three passes fall short.
"It was our first game," Brisco said, his shoulders propped a bit higher than they had been. "We're going to keep improving, and the offense is going to get where it needs to be."