Warriors prepare for rematch with Liberty
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY — Sherando’s game with Liberty tonight is a rematch from a regular-season contest, in which the Warriors won 45-23. However, don’t expect the Warriors to take the Eagles lightly in their Class 4A North region second round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Eagles haven’t lost since they played Sherando on Oct. 4, and they have made some changes offensively and defensively.
“They’re an improved team,” Sherando senior Reid Entsminger said. “I think they’re on a winning streak since we last played them. We got to give 100 percent. We can’t take them lightly, because they can knock us out.”
One of the biggest changes for the Eagles is they moved wide receiver Aaron Walter to quarterback and quarterback Garrett Watts to wide receiver.
Sherando coach Bill Hall said Watts is more of a runner, but can also throw the ball. Hall said the most important thing for the Warriors is to focus on themselves.
“We have to do what we have to do to be successful within the schemes we’re doing offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Hall said. “Right now we’re just living within the moment to make sure we realize our potential every day in practice. If we have a good week in practice, it sets us up to have success on Friday night. So that’s really the focus right now.”
Liberty has a trio of running backs — T.J. Hogan, Ja Quan Sinclair and Martin Parker — who run the ball out of the double-wing offense. The Eagles also use other formations to keep teams off balance.
Hall said they’ve also changed up their defense a little bit as well, going from a one-high safety to a two-high safety in their cover-2 and cover-3 defenses.
Liberty (7-4) and Sherando (10-1) have had a strong rivalry for years, and have had many great games.
“It’s always been a tough game,” Hall said. “They’re similar to us. They’re a physical team, always been well-coached. They’ve always had really good kids. They’ve had big kids and they’ve had athletic kids.”
One of the games still fresh on the minds of many players is last year’s first-round playoff game, in which the Eagles ended Sherando’s season.
The Warriors want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I know that last year they ended our season and we’re not going to let that happen this year,” Sherando senior Daniel Eppard said. “We’ve both been like power teams in the past, so this Friday’s going to be about going out there and seeing which team can play like men in a big game.”
The Warriors are riding a big winning streak themselves, having won nine games in a row.
On offense, the Warriors have been balanced. They’ve rushed for 2,525 yards and thrown for 1,729 yards. Defensively, they’re allowing only 12.1 points per game, and only 195.4 yards of offense per game.
In Sherando’s convincing 49-15 win over Amherst in the first round of the playoffs, it was more of the same. Sherando had 561 yards of offense, while allowing only 99 yards.
“Right now we’re on full cylinders,” Entsminger said. “Everything’s clicking on offense, defense, special teams. It’s a great time to have it all going for you, especially as a team.”
The two teams know each other well, and Entsminger said many of the players on both teams are friendly and even follow each other on Twitter.
With so much at stake, Entsminger said it will be important for the Warriors to come out and play hard from the opening drive to the end.
“We just got to do like we do every game and come out and smack them in the mouth on the first drive, and set the tempo for the game,” Entsminger said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd