By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- Sherando High School football coach Bill Hall wanted some answers early in Saturday's Northwestern District matchup against host Handley.
Twice in the first quarter, Warriors quarterback Reid Entsminger had the opportunity to unload the ball on a hot read against the Judges. Twice, the junior failed to pass the ball. Hall wanted to know why, and fast.
"He said he broke his collarbone," Hall said. "... He would've just kept playing."
Of course he didn't, as Entsminger immediately exited after Hall learned that news and watched the rest of the game with his left arm in a sling. Entsminger did get to watch his replacement, sophomore Josh Ojo, deliver a perfect passing day and lead Sherando to a 21-0 victory Saturday at the Handley Bowl.
The victory on Handley's Homecoming day was nice, but both Entsminger and Hall didn't sound too optimistic about the junior's prognosis for the rest of the season. Entsminger was scheduled for X-rays on Monday.
Entsminger came off the field during Sherando's second possession of the first quarter. Ojo, who has seen some action at quarterback, entered with the game a scoreless tie. Ojo was the biggest reason for that, as his interception of Handley quarterback Will Dearing's pass at about the Sherando 4-yard-line killed the Judges' opening drive.
With Entsminger out, Sherando (4-3, 2-0 Northwestern) shifted into run-first mode.
"Obviously he's a huge part of what we do in terms of being able to run the whole offense -- not that Josh can't do that, but [Entsminger] gets so many of the reps during the course of the week that we can't all of a sudden do everything that we were doing with Reid in there," Hall said.
That running mentality bore fruit in the second quarter, as bruising junior George Aston -- a 6-foot, 225-pounder -- capped a nine-play, 47-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run for the game's first points with 3:27 left in the first half. That touchdown came after Handley misfired on another solid scoring chance after starting its third possession on the Sherando 21 following a shanked punt that netted six yards.
Handley (2-5, 0-1) couldn't cash in, and Nick Marshall's 35-yard field goal attempt into the wind was blocked by the Warriors.
"We're just not capable right now of making those big, explosive plays," Handley coach Tony Rayburn said. "And if you don't make explosive plays, it's really tough."
Sherando nearly added to its lead, but Tylar Clowser's 37-yard field goal into the wind fell short as time expired in the first half.
Looking to spark a little second-half momentum, the Judges tried an onside kick but failed to execute. Instead, the Warriors started at the Handley 40 and needed seven plays to reach the end zone. Ojo, operating out of the shotgun, handled a slightly high snap and quickly found Josh Wagner downfield for a 21-yard touchdown pass that boosted Sherando's lead to 14-0 with 8:36 left in the third.
Ojo finished the day 6 of 6 passing for 91 yards with the touchdown and no interceptions.
"Once I got all the jitters and stuff out of me, I just kept it rolling from there," Ojo said.
The Judges, who lost steady defensive back Andrew Lins to injury early in the first half, took another hit when Dearing was sidelined with an injury on their first possession of the second half.
The Warriors struck again after forcing Handley to punt. Taylor Loudan (game-high 116 rushing yards) capped a 10-play, 58-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Loudan stumbled as he reached the line, basically falling through a sizable hole to tumble into the end zone.
"We did a great job up front," Hall said. "And I'm really proud of the way Ojo just kept his composure in there."
Aston chipped in 64 rushing yards as the Warriors totaled 200 on 46 carries.
"I thought it was more of just a, 'What's inside you?,' game more than anything," Hall said. "I think our guys just take great pride in what they're going to do. I think it was kind of spelled out what we were going to be doing offensively. Defensively, [we] just did a good job of not letting the big play happen."
Sherando limited Handley to just 107 rushing yards and 33 passing between Dearing and his replacement Nick Dempsey, plus forced a pair of turnovers.
Dontae Mauck led the Judges with 61 rushing yards.
While Entsminger's injury put a damper on Sherando's victory, Ojo's steady performance in relief was something to feel good about.
"I was really surprised," Aston said. "I was really proud of him, how he came in there with all the pressure on him and he played real good."
Contact Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137, or email@example.com