By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- LeeQuan Johnson was well aware that he didn't have time for nerves -- making his first varsity start for Sherando.
The junior running back made a strong impression in his first game to help lead the Warriors to a 40-13 win over Musselman in a game that was closer than the score would indicate.
"I just prepared myself mentally to come out here and play ball," Johnson said. "You can't come out here with butterflies in your stomach. You just gotta come and produce. That's what I came to do tonight."
Johnson ran for 152 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns for the Warriors.
Musselman came out strong to start the game. The Applemen, using their no-huddle pistol-style offense, drove 58 yards on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. Musselman quarterback Trevon Wesco ran it in from three yards out with 7:39 left in the first quarter.
Things didn't start off well for Sherando on its first drive. A penalty helped force the Warriors into a third-and-25 from their own 9. Sherando quarterback Reid Entsminger said he tried to settle his team down in the huddle.
"In the huddle I was like, 'Guys come on, it's 7-0 first quarter, seven minutes left,'" Entsminger said. "All we have to do is execute and we're back in this thing. I told them to keep their heads up."
That's exactly what the Warriors did. A screen pass from Entsminger to Johnson went for 38 yards to the Sherando 47. Two plays later, Johnson ran 51 yards for a touchdown to tie it up 7-7.
"From then on we just took control of the game," Entsminger said. "Defense stepped up after the first series they had, and the offense just made plays."
Entsminger was 11 for 17 for 273 yards through the air. He also had 48 yards rushing on seven carries.
Musselman looked like it might score on its second possession, but Sherando's Isaiah Williams intercepted a pass at the Sherando 2. The play came after a penalty moved the Applemen back 15 yards.
"We never really recovered from that," Musselman coach Brian Thomas said of the drive. "We did a great job moving the ball in the first half."
Sherando took the lead for good in the second quarter. The Warriors went 47 yards on four plays, aided by a 40-yard run by Entsminger. Sherando senior George Aston busted through several tackles on his way to a 7-yard touchdown run with 3:25 left in the first half.
Musselman drove to the Sherando 33 on its next drive, but a fumble recovered by Sherando's Josh Ojo ended the threat.
The Warriors took advantage. Entsminger threw a screen pass to Branden Litten, who took it all the way down the sidelines for a 72-yard touchdown pass and a 20-7 halftime lead.
An interception by Sherando's Ojo gave the Warriors the ball at the Musselman 1. Aston took it in on the next play to give Sherando a 27-7 lead with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
The Warriors put the game out of reach with a 64-yard pass from Entsminger to Ojo, in which Entsminger had to scramble around away from a few defenders before making the pass.
"I was about to run and I saw [Ojo] break for it, and I thought OK I'll give it a try," Entsminger said. "I thought I threw it too short, but luckily it got right into his hands."
The Warriors had 500 yards of offense, with over 200 both passing and running.
Musselman quarterback Trevon Wesco threw for 100 yards on 9 for 13 passing. He also ran for 66 yards on 22 carries.
"I thought the effort was there from the kids," Thomas said. "I saw some good things. We just have to move on and learn from this."
The game was stopped for about 10 minutes in the fourth quarter, as Sherando's Brogan McPartland suffered an injury and was taken away in an ambulance. Sherando coach Bill Hall said he wasn't sure how serious the injury was.
Despite the victory, the Warriors feel there's still room to get better, especially with Martinsburg coming to Sherando next week.
"Not a bad game," Entsminger said of the team's performance. "There's always room for improvement and we're looking forward to next week with Martinsburg."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd