By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- If Sherando boys soccer coach Patrick Anderson could have had his way, the Warriors would have experienced a total media blackout concerning a recent Northwestern District game.
That matchup between Skyline and Handley, finished with the Judges rolling to a lopsided victory. Anderson didn't want his players to know about it because he didn't think that game truly reflected the Hawks' talent level.
For the first half of Thursday's matchup, Anderson's worst fears seemed spot on as the Hawks battled the Warriors nearly shot for shot. But in the second half, Sherando made the adjustment and notched a pair of insurance goals to pick up a 3-0 victory.
"We tell them every year it's always a battle playing them, just because the field's a little smaller size-wise," Anderson said. "So spacing-wise, it's a little difficult for us to get used to. We made a few adjustments at halftime and tried to slow it down a little bit. We were playing a little bit rushed.
"... Skyline's a much-improved team. They did a good job. They were stepping to the ball and they were winning them, too."
The Hawks threatened early with a blast from outside the penalty area by David Martinez that sailed just over the crossbar just four minutes into the game. Martinez teamed with Chris Johnson to reinforce Skyline's midfield, and the adjustment worked beautifully for Skyline (3-5, 0-2 Northwestern). Johnson moved up from stopper, and Martinez moved back from forward and both -- Johnson with his deadly accurate passing, Martinez with his aggressiveness for possessions -- gave the Warriors' headaches.
Sherando (7-1, 3-0 Northwestern) nearly broke through with 16:45 to play in the first half when Rhett Morris sent a slicing shot toward the net that Hawks goalkeeper James Clatterbuck knocked down. The Warriors' William Tatum swooped in to collect the loose ball and got off a shot, but Skyline defender Justin Hagerty got between the ball and the goal to block it.
The Hawks' luck ran out with 3:03 to play in the first half, when the Warriors cashed in on Andrew Wade's corner kick. Steven Burns got off a second header that found the net on the play to put Sherando up a goal heading into halftime.
Sherando used another Wade corner to boost its lead just five minutes into the second half, as Tyler Morris connected on a header for the goal. Sherando finished with 10 corner kicks on the night, as opposed to just two for the Hawks.
"We work on it constantly every day and try to use our height to our advantage," Anderson said. "For once we're actually a bigger team than others that we play. I guess that's a benefit of having all these seniors. So we try to work on it and attack the box because once you get it in there, you never know what will happen."
Sherando kept up the pressure in the second half. After outshooting Skyline just 10-5 in the first 40 minutes, the Warriors had a 15-5 advantage in the second half.
Considering all those attempts, the Hawks' defense held up well after giving up 10 goals earlier in the week to Handley.
"We changed our defense up a little bit and they played much better," Hawks coach Chris Hollowell said. "We had a talk yesterday, between games. So we changed our defense up and everybody stepped up and played better."
Sherando picked up one last goal with 10:23 to play when John Flanagan unleashed a rising shot from outside the penalty area that hit the left post and caromed into the net.
Clatterbuck had 11 saves for Skyline. Sherando's Rodrigo Casteriana had five saves in the shutout.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>