Warriors prepared for toughest test

By Brad Fauber

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando head football coach Bill Hall is quite familiar with Dinwiddie head coach Billy Mills and the winning tradition of the Generals’ football program. But when Hall was studying game film of Dinwiddie earlier this week in preparation for today’s Class 4A state championship game at Liberty University in Lynchburg, he was still quite impressed with what he saw.

In fact, when asked what, specifically, impressed him about the unbeaten Generals, Hall simply replied “everything.”

“Sunday was the first time I’d ever seen video on them, so that became the reality of what I’ve heard about [them],” Hall said after practice on Monday. “Obviously they’re a really good team. You can tell they’re a well-coached ball club. Great team speed. They play snap to whistle. That’s the recipe that they use for success … so they’re really good.”

Dinwiddie (14-0) figures to be the toughest test that Sherando (13-1) has seen this season. And the Warriors are playing in the program’s biggest game since Sherando advanced to the Group AA Division 4 state championship game back in 2007, a game the Warriors lost to Amherst County, 56-10.

But even as the Warriors attempt to win their first football state championship in four tries, against an unbeaten Dinwiddie squad that has rolled through teams in the playoffs, Sherando doesn’t appear fazed by the challenge.

“It’s just don’t believe the hype, because everyone’s going to talk and say that they’re unbeatable and whatnot. We can’t follow that,” Warriors senior quarterback/safety Reid Entsminger said. “We’ve got to have the right mindset going into this game [today]. I think everyone’s on the same page, and we have no doubt that we’re going to win this football game.”

Sherando has taken that same approach to each and every game this season. It helped the Warriors claim their first outright Northwestern District title since 2007. It helped them win their first playoff game since 2009, a 49-15 drubbing of Amherst back on Nov. 15. And it helped them shut down the vaunted rushing attacks of both Courtland and Salem to reach today’s state championship game.

Last week’s 7-0 win over Salem in the 4A North Region final has been the most impressive for the Warriors, as Sherando held the Spartans — who came into the game averaging over 300 yards rushing — to just 94 yards rushing on 32 attempts.

The Warriors are allowing just 12 points and 200 yards of total offense this season and have limited teams to 116 rushing yards per game. Sherando’s stifling defense will be put to yet another tough test today against Dinwiddie, which is averaging 47.4 points and 483 total yards per game, including 282.9 yards rushing.

Dinwiddie has outscored opponents 178-14 in four playoff games this postseason.

“We just want to come out and show them who Sherando really is,” said Warriors senior linebacker Joe Daley, who is third on the team with 76 tackles to go along with two interceptions. “Our defense has stepped up all year, and that’s just what we’re going to do on Saturday.”

Dinwiddie’s offense operates out of a spread attack, but still relies heavily on an effective running game, which is led by senior running back Sadarius Williams (208 carries, 2,065 yards and 21 TDs).

Williams has plenty of support, including senior quarterback Ronald Kearney, who is a dangerous runner that has carried 79 times for 613 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Kearney has also been effective in the passing game for the Generals, as he has completed 119 of 203 passes for 1,892 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

“Obviously they’re going to watch film on us and see that we do a good job stopping the run. Whether or not they still want that to be their primary point of emphasis… so far, no one’s been able to really slow them down in terms of the run game,” Hall said. “I don’t think they’re hesitant at all to throw the ball, but I think they definitely like to run the ball. That’s what they’ve done to be successful in getting to this point.”

Sherando’s offense is averaging 34.6 points and 372.9 total yards per game, although the Warriors gained just 170 yards (17 yards passing) in last week’s win over Salem. Things will get even tougher for the Warriors against Dinwiddie, which is allowing just 8 points per game this season.

Entsminger leads the Warriors’ offense, having completed 108 of 185 passes for 2,037 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions. Entsminger also has rushed for 843 yards and seven touchdowns.

Junior running back LeeQuan Johnson leads Sherando’s rushing attack, as he has carried 194 times for 1,132 yards and 15 touchdowns. Senior fullback George Aston — who also leads the Warriors with 175 tackles — has rushed for 766 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Entsminger, who won a baseball state championship with Sherando last spring, said he’s not quite sure what emotions to expect when the Warriors step onto the football field for the final time this season.

“It’s probably going to be like baseball, it’s going to be so surreal,” Entsminger said. “But we’ve got to collect ourselves and just play football. It’s just another game, another team. We’ve just got to take care of business like we have the entire year.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD