By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando football coach Bill Hall's sly grin said it all Friday night.
When asked whether he realized what a potential weapon for the passing game he had in senior Daniel Eppard, Hall left little doubt that the former fullback had always been in the back of his mind for just the sort of role he's played the last two weeks.
"You can't just do everything all the time, right?," Hall said. "You know, you've got to keep some of your toys back."
Eppard, who had only five catches for 113 yards during the Warriors' 10 regular-season games, suddenly has become a focal point for the passing game in the playoffs. In last week's first-round victory over Amherst County, Eppard snared not one but two touchdown passes. The first was a 6-yarder from Reid Entsminger in the first half, nice but nothing shocking. The second was a jaw-dropper for Sherando fans and a back-breaker for Amherst, as Eppard flashed his speed on a deep route to haul in an 80-yard touchdown strike.
"He's a great athlete, being 6-foot, 225 [pounds]," Entsminger said. "He's fast, he makes plays. He's got big hands -- great hands -- and he catches the ball wherever I throw it."
On Friday against Liberty in the second round of the playoffs, Eppard was at it again. Filling in for an injured Josh Ojo in the slot, Eppard went deep in the waning seconds of the first half looking for late strike. Entsminger, flushed from the pocket, was scrambling toward the sideline and scanning the field as he ran. Finally, he spotted Eppard. The result was a 33-yard touchdown pass with no time left on the clock, putting Sherando up by three touchdowns in a game the Warriors eventually won, 34-12.
"I saw Reid scrambling, and I saw him rolling to the edge so I just tried to roll with him so he could see that I was open in the end zone," Eppard said. "I just put my hand up so he could see that I was there. Then he just made a good pass and I made a good catch."
Entsminger said Eppard wasn't his first option, for sure.
"I saw him wide open in the end zone waving his hand, and I was like well, you better catch this football if I throw it to you," Entsminger said. "So I just chucked it down there and he caught it, made a great catch."
Eppard kept it up in the second half, hauling in a 34-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage to help the Warriors move down the field for another score.
On Sherando's next drive, Eppard got that separation again and showed some running ability on a 62-yard reception that sparked yet another touchdown drive capped by Entsminger's 1-yard dive into the end zone to put the Warriors up 34-0 with 4:12 left in the third quarter.
"I think once the season got changed up, they wanted to give a look that they haven't given before, so they figured they'd run a few route combos with me because they expect me to be out there to block," Eppard said.
Eppard said his first deep route was that 80-yard catch against Amherst, but it probably won't be the last.
"He's kind of been hidden this whole season till now and the last game, but now people see the potential he has and coach Hall has taken advantage for sure," Entsminger said.
Eppard, who finished Friday's game against Liberty with five catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, doesn't seem to mind the expanded role in Sherando's offense.
"I like running routes a lot better than blocking, but you've got to do what you've got to do to earn wins," Eppard said.