By Jeff Nations
It was another solid year for local sports in 2013, but perhaps best of all for Sherando High School's Reid Entsminger and Adam Whitacre. Those two played key roles in two huge achievements by the Warriors -- winning the Group AA state baseball title in the spring, and helping Sherando reach the Class 4A state football championship in the fall.
Here's a look at the top stories from 2013, as voted on by members of The Northern Virginia Daily sports staff:
1. Sherando wins first-ever baseball state championship: The drama started early in the postseason for the Warriors, who went toe-to-toe with Loudoun Valley for 13 innings in do-or-die Region II quarterfinal game. Entsminger and John Bentley combined for 13 scoreless innings before Chase Smallwood finally ended matters with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the 13th inning. There was little time to rest, though, as the Warriors promptly went extras -- eight innings, this time -- before pulling out a 5-4 win over two-time defending Group AA state champ Powhatan. Smallwood had the game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth and Entsminger delivered a walk-off RBI single to keep Sherando rolling. After those two white-knuckle wins, a 9-4 victory over Woodgrove in the regional championship was a bit anticlimactic.
Sherando rallied for two runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to dispatch Culpeper, 5-3, in the Group AA state quarterfinals and earn a trip to Calfee Park in Radford as they continued their quest for a state title. Entsminger got the ball against unbeaten Amherst in the state semifinals, and he fired a complete game with 10 strikeouts to lead the Warriors to 4-2 victory. Sherando got a huge lift from No. 8 hitter Jeb Brown, who drove in two runs, and Jacob Carney had his first career homer in the victory. Then in the state championship, coach Pepper Martin's ballclub got another clutch pitching performance from Bentley (complete game, seven strikeouts) and another big hit from Carney -- a go-ahead RBI single -- as Sherando won its first state championship by a 2-1 score.
2. Sherando plays for title: Sherando's football team lost just twice in 2013, both times to state champions. The first came against eventual West Virginia Class AAA state champion Martinsburg, but the Warriors promptly reeled off 11 straight victories after that to reach the Class 4A state championship game in Lynchburg. The Warriors' streak came to an end against powerful Dinwiddie in that championship, denying Sherando its first football title. It was still an impressive performance by the Warriors.
A hard-hitting defense led by The Northern Virginia Daily's Football Defensive Player of the Year, senior linebacker George Aston, made life miserable for opposing offenses all season long. Entsminger was calm and collected running the Warriors' multi-faceted offense, which featured a characteristically powerful running game keyed by LeeQuan Johnson Jr. and Aston, along with a penchant for big pass play production from Whitacre and Daniel Eppard. Sherando finished the season with a sparkling 13-2 record under 11th-year coach Bill Hall.
3. Area wrestlers solid at states: Strasburg's wrestling team certainly packed a extra amount of punch among its lighter weights at the 2013 Group A state wrestling championships. The Rams had three state champions crowned -- Hunter Dean (106 pounds), Nic Campbell (120) and Kent Cadle (132) -- en route to a state runner-up finish under coach Trey Kirkland. Those three wrestlers combined for a sparkling 125-2 record on the season, making the Rams' lower weights one tough assignment for any opposing lineup.
Skyline senior Justin Williams made sure Strasburg didn't have all the fun at the state wrestling championships. The powerful 220-pounder capped a dazzling year by winning a state crown for the Hawks in the Group AA competition. Williams finished his final campaign at Skyline with a 47-2 record.
4. Title time in Radford: A pair of area track and field standouts brought home the top hardware at the Group A state outdoor track and field championships in Radford. Central's Justin Bauserman successfully defended his state title in the 300-meter hurdles with a winning time of 39.82 seconds, while Strasburg's Rachel Speaker ended her high school career by winning the state championship in the discus with a toss of 113 feet, 2 inches.
Other top performances at the Group A state meet included Central's Brandon Ritter in the 110 hurdles (third), Strasburg's Anthony Wallis in the 1,600 (third) and 3,200 (fifth), Central's Josh Gum in the shot put (fifth), and Stonewall Jackson's quartet of Ashton Davis, Christina Dinges, Cheyenne Crigger and Amanda Dotson in the 1,600 relay (fourth).
5. Millson French retires: The end of an era arrived at Strasburg in February, when longtime boys basketball coach Millson French coached his final game for the Rams. French, who led the program for 39 seasons, had made it known that it would be his last season early on. His final campaign was, fittingly, a solid one to cap a career marked by French's blue-collar, tenacious brand of basketball. The Rams finished the year with an 18-6 record.
French, who took over the Strasburg varsity program starting with the 1974-1975 season, finished his legendary career at the school with 456 victories and left a lasting, positive impression on hundreds of players he coached over the years.
6. Express goes distance in VBL playoffs: As Valley Baseball League franchises go, the Strasburg Express is still a relative newcomer. That didn't stop the club from making some serious noise this past season in the VBL. Manager Butch Barnes, who stepped down following his third season at the helm, led Strasburg to a spot in the VBL's championship series against Waynesboro.
The Express, featuring league Most Valuable Player Jordan Tarsovich and a stable of solid pitching arms, dropped a 9-3 decision to the Generals in the winner-take-all Game 3, but it still represented the most successful season yet for the franchise.
7. Generals reach title game: Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer program was simply dazzling on the way to a spot in the Group A state championship game. The Generals, sparked by the high-scoring trio of Roberto Cardoso Jr., Juan Luna and David Dodson, played an exciting and energetic brand of soccer all season on the way to 24 straight victories.
Coach Caleb Golladay, part of Stonewall's only other state final team, helped mold the Generals into a lethal group of scorers capable of overcoming nearly any obstacle. Unfortunately, the one roadblock they couldn't overcome was George Mason in the championship. Having beaten the Mustangs 3-1 in the regional championship earlier, Stonewall couldn't pull it off again in a 2-1 loss in the state title game. Cardoso scored the lone goal for the Generals to tie the match in the 53rd minute, but the Mustangs took the lead again for good seven minutes later.
8. Generals push for championship: Stonewall added another chapter to its stellar golf history this past season, even if the ending wasn't quite to the Generals' liking. Heading into the new Class 2A state golf tournament at nearby Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal, Stonewall Jackson showed the quiet confidence coach Roger Wilkins had instilled throughout the hot summer months. After Day 1, the Generals had forged a tie with Graham for the team lead despite not shooting their best round.
The second day didn't get better for Stonewall, though, as the Generals continued to falter and finished seven strokes back. Still, the state runner-up finish was a strong finale for seniors Andrew Good, Colton Harlow and Jonathan Koontz.
9. Erick Green gets call from NBA: Former Millbrook High School and Virginia Tech star Erick Green realized his dream when the Utah Jazz made him the 46th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft , but Green needn't have gone house shopping out West just yet. The Jazz promptly dealt the 6-foot-3 point guard to the Denver Nuggets in a draft-night trade, but Green's destination still wasn't set.
Shortly after the draft, the Nuggets approached Green with the idea of playing his first season overseas. With three point guards already on the roster, Green's best chance for significant playing time this year was in Italy. Green was ready to take that step, and made his professional debut playing for Montepaschi Siena in the Italian League.
10. Hornets hire Yoder: Shenandoah University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Zipp made arguably his most important hire yet by naming Scott Yoder as the Hornets' new football coach in January. Yoder was tasked with turning around a program that had fallen on hard times, including a winless first season in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference under former coach Paul Barnes.
Yoder, who had been an assistant football coach at his alma mater Hobart College, inherited a team that had gone just 1-9 the previous season. Yoder needed just two games to equal that win total with a victory over Ferrum, then got SU's first ODAC win in his first try with a 29-20 home victory over Bridgewater College. The Hornets later picked up a huge road victory over perennial power Hampden-Sydney, the high point of a 4-6 season that included a 3-4 mark in ODAC play.
Honorable mention: James Madison fired longtime football coach Mickey Matthews and named Ohio State assistant Everett Withers to replace him. ... Area teams embarked on their first season in the newly formatted six-division alignment developed by the Virginia High School Athletic League. ... Lord Fairfax Community College's men's rugby team qualified for the upcoming National Small College Rugby Organization's national playoffs. ... Central senior Katelyn Poston broke the school's career scoring record for girls basketball. ... Massanutten Academy's postgraduate boys basketball program held the No. 1 national ranking for much of the season. ... Central's football team made its deepest run yet in the new Class 3A state playoffs.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>