Refreshed Warriors ready for playoff game against Wolverines

Sherando's D.J. Myers tries to ward off Eastern View's Josh Stallings during a game earlier this season in Stephens City. The Warriors host Woodgrove in the second round of the Group 4A West playoffs at 7 p.m. on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – Everyone on Sherando High School’s football team got a bit of a break last week, the benefit of having earned a bye in the first round of the Group 4A West tournament.

For the coaching staff, Warriors head coach Bill Hall said Tuesday, the bye offered a bit of a respite from the demands of game planning each and every week. Sherando’s players enjoyed much of the same, he said, getting an opportunity for some “mental downtime” and a break from the pressure of trying to deliver on high internal and external expectations ahead of today’s 7 p.m. home game against Woodgrove.

“I think it’s some downtime where they can just be themselves,” Hall said, “and it also gives us some time from a practice standpoint, one, to get some time off but two, with daylight savings time and everything like that it gives us a chance to do some more fundamental things that we don’t always have a chance to do, so that’s a good thing.”

No. 5 Woodgrove (10-1) travels to Arrowhead Stadium riding a 10-game winning streak after thumping Heritage (Leesburg) 40-13 in the first round last week. The Wolverines’ lone loss came in the season opener against John Champe.

Fourth-seeded Sherando (9-1), meanwhile, has won two straight since losing its only game of the season to Fort Hill (Maryland) on Oct. 23. Senior offensive/defensive lineman Kyle Warren said he thinks the Warriors – particularly some of the younger players – gained valuable perspective from that defeat.

“It gives our guys a reality sense that we’re not invincible, we’ve gotta play,” Warren said. “So I think it was good to have weeks after that where you can redeem yourself and just say we’ve gotta work for it.”

Tonight’s matchup, the first ever on the football field between the two schools, should be a classic strength versus strength battle, as Woodgrove brings a high-powered rushing offense to Stephens City that will try to find some way to break through Sherando’s stifling defensive front. The Warriors are allowing only 195.8 yards per game, limiting opposing offenses to just 71 yards rushing per contest.

The Wolverines are averaging 42.5 points per game this season.

“I think they’re just gonna line up and they’re gonna run at you. I wouldn’t want it to play any different as a defensive player,” said Warren, who has 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. “We have a pretty good defense this year and I’m hoping this will show people that we have a good potential to be a very, very good defensive squad.”

Hall said the Wolverines run a spread offense but favor the running game behind a big offensive line that includes 6-foot-7, 320-pound senior offensive guard Hunter Smith.

Senior running back Charlie Clewis has rushed for over 1,500 yards and 28 touchdowns for Woodgrove this season. Hall compared the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Clewis to former Sherando standout George Aston, who is now the starting fullback at the University of Pittsburgh.

“He reminds me, from an effort standpoint, of George,” Hall said of Clewis. “He’s a very hard player. No plays off, attacks everything whether it be pass blocking or running the ball, or if he’s blocking. He really gets after it.”

Woodgrove junior quarterback Mike Kovich is a dual-threat player who will pass the ball in a “workman-type way,” Hall added, stressing the importance of playing assignment football on defense.

The Wolverines’ defense is allowing only 9.1 points per game this season, and Woodgrove has surrendered just 31 total points in their last six games.

“We were watching a lot of film last week that we got from other coaches,” Warriors senior quarterback Patrick Minteer said, “and they were doing a lot of – we thought it was kind of cover 4, loose zone, but then we found out that it’s actually loose man. That changes up route concepts completely. But in terms of run game, not much (changes) other than we’re gonna try to isolate some people and run the ball away from them.”

Sherando’s offense is averaging 335.5 yards per game, including 209.2 yards on the ground. Senior D.J. Myers leads the Warriors’ rushing attack with 225 carries for 1,494 yards and 16 touchdowns, while NCAA Division 1 prospect Dylan Rivers has nine rushing touchdowns to go along with 536 yards receiving and five receiving scores.

Minteer, who has completed 72 of 123 passes for 1,251 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, said the key for Sherando’s offense tonight is to “keep hitting the wall with the hammer.”

“Eventually it’s gonna break and we’re gonna break one but you have to trust that the play’s gonna work,” Minteer said. “We’re not expecting big plays every time or shots all the time but we have to keep hitting the wall and then eventually it will break. And we can’t turn over the football, we can’t give them good field position because they can score.”

Hall said Sherando is plus-18 in turnover margin this season, adding that it will be important to maintain that ball security while avoiding many third-and-long situations on offense.

“I think just staying on schedule, making sure that we take advantage of what they’re giving us,” Hall said. “They’ll come up with a game plan as to what they wanna take away and we have to make sure we attack off of that.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com