By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Salem came into Saturday's Class 4A state semifinal game with Sherando averaging over 300 yards a game. The Warriors' strong defensive unit knew it would be a challenge, but on Saturday they rose to the occasion in a big way.
The Warriors held the Spartans to only 94 yards on the ground, which was a big key in their 7-0 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
"We knew coming in that they had a great running game, a great offense," Sherando senior linebacker George Aston said. "They're a great team all around, but we also knew they hadn't faced anybody like us all year."
Aston said the Warriors didn't have to do much different, it was just a matter of playing the way they had all season.
"We played like we did all year -- just everybody has to do their job and buy into what we do and everybody did that," Aston said. "We faced tons of adversity today. We just came out with the win."
The Warriors were able to hold their ground every time they needed to on defense.
Salem running back Coleman Fox entered the game with over 1,700 yards rushing, but the Warriors held him to only 71 yards on 20 carries.
"We've been practicing on their running game," Sherando senior linebacker Joe Daley said. "We knew that their running game was real big, especially with their two linemen. Their linemen are huge -- big dudes. We've been about hitting offenses downhill all year, and that's what we did. And we came up big."
The biggest play of the game came on defense for the Warriors. Fox fumbled the ball with 5:20 left in the third quarter and Sherando defensive back Reid Entsminger recovered. The Warriors scored the game's only touchdown on the ensuing drive.
"I just saw the ball loose and I jumped on it," Entsminger said. "It was just instinct. People were trying to grab it underneath the pile. I just wasn't letting it go."
The Warriors had one more big stand they had to make on defense.
After a short punt, the Spartans started their final drive at the Sherando 32 with 4:27 left in the game. They were able to pick up a first down, but Sherando held them one final time to secure the win.
It was the first shutout of the season for the Warriors, and the perfect time for it to happen.
"We never got a shutout and we've wanted one all year," Aston said. "And we finally got one in this situation. It just feels better than ever."
"I think its' fitting that those guys, they walk off the field champions, and they walk off the field with a goose egg," Sherando coach Bill Hall said. "I think that says a lot about those guys -- that unit. They're a bunch of guys, they go out and they do their job, execute what's called. I'm so proud of them."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd