By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando would not let history repeat itself.
Last season Liberty defeated Sherando in the postseason to knock them out of the playoffs. On Friday night, a focused Warriors' squad made sure it didn't happen again. Sherando controlled the game from the start and rolled to a 34-12 win over Liberty in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
"A lot of us played last year, we just kept it in the back of our heads what happened last year," Sherando senior George Aston said. "They came here in the playoffs and beat us, after we beat them in the regular season. And they ended our season in the playoffs. We wanted to return the favor this year."
The Warriors (11-1) used a balanced offense that put up 482 yards, and a stingy defense that had a shutout going until the last 8:11 of the game.
After forcing a Liberty punt, the Warriors drove 81 yards in just nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead. LeeQuan Johnson Jr. capped off the drive with a 15-yard run with 5:24 left in the first quarter.
Sherando passed the ball well in its earlier win this season over the Eagles, so the Warriors wanted to establish the run early in the playoff encounter.
"We figured they were going to focus more on the passing game because that's what happened last time and that's what they did," Sherando quarterback Reid Entsminger said. "Our game plan going in was run, run, run, and hopefully they were going to make a mistake."
It was more of the same on Sherando's next drive as the Warriors went 53 yards on 11 plays, 10 of which were via the run. Aston finished off the drive with a 1-yard plunge to give Sherando a 14-0 lead with 11:15 left in the first half.
Once the Warriors had established the running game, that allowed Entsminger to make some big plays with his arm. At the end of the first half he used both his arm and his legs.
On the final play of the half, Entsminger scrambled around when the offensive line broke down buying just enough time for Daniel Eppard to get open in the end zone. Entsminger's 33-yard pass to Eppard, which was almost tipped by a Liberty defender, gave Sherando a 21-0 lead at the half.
"I got pressure and I ran around a little bit," Entsminger said. "As I was running I saw Eppard's hand go up in the air and it was a little flashback to the Handley game with Adam [Whitacre]. I just trusted him and he made a great catch."
Eppard, who only had five catches in the regular season, has become a weapon for the Warriors on offense the last two weeks. Eppard had five catches for 150 yards against Liberty.
"We knew he had speed, but I guess we never utilized it until now," Entsminger said. "Thank God we found him. He's a playmaker. He runs fast for a big dude."
Entsminger connected again with Eppard for a 37-yard gain to start the second half, amd four plays later Aston ran it in from the 8-yard-line for a 27-0 lead.
Sherando's defense yielded only 57 yards of offense in the first half, but gave up two touchdowns late to make the score a little closer. The Eagles finished with 197 yards of offense.
Entsminger threw for 219 yards on 10 for 16 passing and one touchdown. He also ran for 90 yards, while Johnson had 99 yards and Aston had 70 yards.
Sherando will host Courtland next Friday at 7 p.m.
Entsminger said the Warriors have to learn from the fourth quarter.
"That last quarter we let down a little bit on defense," Entsminger said. "We can't have that happen, especially this far into the playoffs. It's gotta be 100 percent for four quarters."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd