By Jim Laise -- firstname.lastname@example.org
BEALETON -- Reid Entsminger had a career night in a game perhaps he has been waiting a career for Friday night, as his Sherando Warriors hung a 45-23 thrashing on non-district Liberty in a game which was really not that close.
Entsminger, the Sherando (5-1) quarterback, completed 15 of 18 pass attempts for 340 yards and 5 TDs, as the Warriors won for the fifth straight time. The 22-point victory comes after Liberty knocked the Stephens City school out of the Region II, Division 4 quarterfinals a year ago.
Until then, Sherando had won six in a row in the rivalry. Consequently, they have knocked off the Eagles in seven of their last eight meetings.
"I trust him," Sherando coach Bill Hall said of the signal caller. "We've built up a trust since he was a freshman staring for us on defense. We meet every day and talk about what we've got to do that week, and he goes out and executes."
Along with executing the passing game almost to perfection, Entsminger rushed 10 times for 57 yards and a sixth TD. Teammate George Aston, the defensive whiz, picked up the Warriors' seventh touchdown on a short run.
"I think the thing I'm most impressed with Reid is how he gets us into the right play and knows where to go with the ball. Over half his decisions come before the snap of the ball," Hall said.
The third quarter ended with Sherando ahead 33-3, which was more indicative of how much in control the Warriors found themselves in control when the game counted.
The teams traded touchdowns in a wild fourth quarterback which saw both teams put up 32 points as they raced up and down the Eagle Stadium field. It was 82 degrees at kickoff and 77 degrees by the end of the game, meaning the adversaries may have been winded.
When Liberty coach Sean Finnerty, whose team is 1-4, decided to go to the air, Eagle quarterback Garrett Watts was a likely accomplice. He finished 20 of 25 in the passing department, good for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Neither quarterback threw an interception.
"The defense played well before letting up a bit and then both teams kind of opened it up in the fourth quarter," said Hall.
But even though the Eagles scored three six-pointers in the fourth quarter, the closest they came was 39-17 with 9:11 to go in the game.
On the Sherando drive, Entsminger went to Branden Litten on an 8-yard scoring toss to put the game out of reach at 45-17 with 6:18 left in the game. Tyler Jones' kick was off.
Sherando's defense had allowed just 61 points in its first five games (12.2 average), and the Warriors looked like they were up to their suffocating ways as Entsminger spear-headed the offense during the first 36 minutes.
The Warriors scored on their first three possessions, while holding Liberty to a Tommy Smith 32-yard field goal to start the game.
Down 3-0, Entsminger fired a 35-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-3 freshman Dylan Rivers, who brought in two scoring tosses on the night. Jones' extra-point kick was no good.
On their second possession, Aston bolted over from 1 yard and this time Jones' PAT was true for a 13-3 lead with 10:53 showing in the half. Entsminger helped set up the Aston TD by crossing the field against the grain on a 27-yard dash that moved the ball to the Eagle 8.
A third possession brought another score. This time Entsminger dialed his own number from three yards out. Jones' PAT was no good, but it appeared it mattered little. The score was 19-3 with 4:10 scoring in the half.
Sherando was going for the knock-out blow on Liberty's next series, but the Warriors pulled their punch. A Liberty ball carrier popped the ball into the visitors' Joshua Ojo's hands, but on the very next play Sherando teammate LeeQuan Johnson (12 carries, 90 yards) fumbled it right back to the home team on the Liberty 30. Todd Parker recovered for the Eagles.
Liberty was in business as it drove all the way to the Warrior 15, where it stalled. After two running plays lost yardage around an incomplete pass, Smith's 35-yard field-goal attempt went wide.
Entsminger went back to Rivers for a 17-yard scoring strike, and this time Jones' kick was good as Sherando extended its lead to 26-3 with 10:14 showing in the third quarter.
Just like in the first half, the only thing stopping the Warriors' offense in the fourth quarter was itself as Ojo fumbled into the hands Eagle Kevin Nailor. Liberty still had to punt.
When Sherando got the ball back, Entsminger found Adam Whitacre across the middle and Whitacre hauled in the pass and raced 82 yards for the touchdown with 2:38 showing in the third. Jones' extra-point was good.
The teams traded touchdowns until Sherando's final drive of the game, when it ran out the clock.
Liberty's Watts went to Ian Vowels for a 44-yard touchdown to start off the fourth quarter. Smith's kick was good and the score was 33-10 with 11:52 to go.
Entsminger came back and found Whitacre again, this time for a 41-yard touchdown, although Jones' kick missed.
Jaquan Sinclair bowled over from the five for Liberty and Smith's kick drew the up rights as the score was 39-17 with 9:11 left.
It was Entsminger's turn again as he found Litten.
Liberty finished off the scoring for the night with Watts hitting Garrett Utterback with the evening's final touchdown, this one good for 10 yards. Smith's kick was off.