Warriors trounce Cougars

By Jeff Nations

STEPHENS CITY — Maybe Sherando High School football coach Bill Hall took a moment to contemplate whether he’d have to wait at least another week to accomplish a personal milestone on Friday night.

Probably not — hitting 100 career coaching wins was likely low on Hall’s priority list as he and his staff worked to slow down a potent Jefferson (W.Va.) offense that had forged a four-point lead after two quarters at Arrowhead Stadium.

The answer was right there, of course. The Warriors simply had to stay the course with a ground-and-pound attack that simply wore down and wore out the previously unbeaten Cougars over the final two quarters for a convincing 38-14 victory.

Down 14-10 at the break, Sherando (4-1) got rolling early in the third quarter when Adam Whitacre hauled in a 52-yard pass from Warriors quarterback Patrick Minteer to reach the Jefferson 5-yard line. Two plays later, LeeQuan Johnson Jr. gave Sherando its first lead with a 1-yard touchdown run.

The Warriors, who’d been hard-pressed to slow the Cougars’ passing attack led by quarterback Andrew King, started getting to the senior quarterback in the second half. King passed for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first two quarters, but completed only 1-of-8 passes for 19 yards in the second half as Sherando brought the heat.

Sherando’s Brogan McPartland had three sacks to lead that onslaught as the Warriors pummeled King with six sacks in all.

“It took us awhile because coming into the first half they kept hitting the quick slants and we weren’t getting that much pressure because they’re such a quick offense,” McPartland said. “But in the second half we started being more aware of that, started getting our hands up trying to disrupt that.”

Sherando got another stop after its go-ahead score, and Whitacre was on the receiving end of another big pass play from Minteer on the ensuing drive. Whitacre’s 46-yard touchdown catch down the right sideline boosted the Warriors’ lead to 24-14 with 4:10 left in the third quarter.

It got worse for Jefferson, which entered the night holding the No. 1 ranking in the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Association state football ratings. Two more possessions went nowhere, then Johnson struck again for a 9-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Johnson (36 rushes for 185 yards) was a busy man in the second half, piling up yardage after being held to just 47 in the first two quarters. Johnson added one last touchdown run, a 3-yarder, with 4:08 to play.

“I know we got tired in the second half a little bit, especially defensively with them being as big as they are and just pounding it down our throats a little bit,” Jefferson coach Craig Hunter said. “Sometimes that happens. One game doesn’t define our season, doesn’t define anything for us.”

Jefferson more than held its own in the first half, striking quickly on its second possession when Christian Johnson (6 catches, 85 yards) hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from King.

The Warriors answered with a 25-yard field goal by Rhett Morris, then held on fourth-and-6 at their own 25 on the Cougars’ next possession. Three plays after that, Morris made an even bigger play at tight end when he was on the receiving end of Minteer’s 65-yard touchdown pass.

“Down the middle of the field, they leave that wide open — they don’t account for tight ends,” said Minteer, who was 5-for-15 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns. “So what we’d do is we’d spread them across the field and then we’d send our tight end down the field. And then they’d bite on play action, too.”

The Cougars came up empty on a long possession after that with a missed field goal, but grabbed the lead right before halftime when Johnson scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass play from King with just 26 seconds left in the half.

“The first half, I thought we [played] extremely well,” Hunter said. “We did what we wanted to do, we did what we’re capable of doing. We went into halftime, made some adjustments to what they were doing, came back out, got a stop, and things just kind of unraveled on us and unraveled quickly.”

As the game unraveled for the Cougars, the Warriors started neatly wrapping up that 100th win for their coach.

“He never told us,” Minteer said. “He didn’t want it to be in our heads, you know.”

Hall could smile about the milestone afterward.

“That’s more a reflection on all the kids that have come through here,” Hall said. “When you think about 100 wins, you think about a lot of really good players and kids that have bought into something that’s bigger than themselves. You think about a lot of really good coaches that we’ve had here and a great community.”