Football Preview 2016: Warriors aiming to ‘realize potential’ in 2016

Sherando's football team warms up during a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – Prior to the start of each high school football season, Sherando head coach Bill Hall poses a question to his players – what is our why?

When the Warriors opened preseason camp with their traditional weekend trip to Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia, the group began exploring the differences between being a team and being a tribe. A team, Hall said after practice earlier this month, can be compiled whether its members enjoy being a part of it or not, whereas a tribe is a singular body with a singular focus.

Keeping that theme in mind, the 2016 Warriors have adopted the mantra “unified mindset,” what Hall calls an emphasis on having a singular focus aligned toward one objective.

“I think that (it’s a) reminder of going back to the why are we here, what’s the purpose of this day, this drill, this rep – to get better, to realize our potential,” Hall said. “Put the picture back in it so they can see it and then they work at it. So that’s kind of our thing this year.”

Similar team-building initiatives have worked out well for Sherando, which has recorded 12 straight winning seasons in Hall’s 13 years at the helm. Last season, the Warriors went 9-2 (4-0 in the Northwestern District) and were knocked out in the first round of the Group 4A playoffs by Woodgrove.

This year’s crop of Warriors is composed of about 100 total players, Hall said, including 47 on the varsity squad.

“I think the quality of that number is a little better maybe than it’s been in the past,” Hall said, adding that Sherando averages around 50 varsity players per season. “… I mean like, of those 48, there’s a lot of really good football players that don’t always see the field regularly. … There’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of youth in that number.”

Sherando returns seven regular starters on offense and six on defense this fall, Hall said.

On offense the Warriors must replace the production of two-year starting quarterback Pat Minteer (3,173 yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions in that span), and will do so with sophomore Hunter Entsminger, whose older brother Reid quarterbacked Sherando to a state championship game appearance in 2013.

“I think with Hunter at quarterback, you know he’s like his brother some, but he’s not his brother, you know what I mean,” Hall said. “He’s an athletic quarterback. He’s a competitor. He’s got a live arm, so the passing game is still all there. But he’s a threat (to run), so you’ve gotta play honest with the field, so that’ll be nice.”

Entsminger will have veteran targets to throw to, including senior tight end Dylan Rivers (26 catches, 614 yards, six touchdowns) and senior receivers Jacquari Hayes (189 yards, two touchdowns) and Michael Perry, and will work behind an offensive line that returns three starters in seniors Jose Guevara (first team all-Conference 21 West) and Sam Johnson and sophomore Isaiah Allen.

The Warriors will also break in a new regular starting running back, a role that Hall said could be filled by a combination of seniors Cordell Peterson and Nathan Wagner and sophomores T.J. Washington and Joseph “JoJo” Doleman, who will also be Sherando’s fullback. Rivers also scored nine rushing touchdowns last season as a wildcat quarterback.

Defensively, Hall said the Warriors will operate in a 3-4 and he has a wealth of options up front, with five capable nose tackles and eight defensive ends, including returning starter Ke’Von Doleman.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Rivers, a Penn State commit, will once again lead the Warriors’ linebackers and will shift inside this season for the first time. Hall said JoJo Doleman will replace Rivers as the field-side outside linebacker, with Perry playing the other outside backer position.

“We’re running to the ball great this year,” said Rivers, who had 43 tackles in 2015. “Last year we were always yelling at each other, ‘Run to the ball,’ but now we’re having fun. Last year we didn’t have that much fun during practice but this year we’re having a lot of fun, a lot of smiles on everyone’s faces, so that’s good.”

Sherando should feature plenty of speed and athleticism in the secondary with a group that will include Hayes, Wagner and junior Aaron Banks.

“All those guys can run like deer,” Hall said. “They just have to perfect their craft but the tools are there and they have the right workman-like attitude. The tools are there and it’s our job to develop them.”

Rivers will handle the punting duties once again for Sherando, while senior Jacob Sites will be the Warriors’ new kicker.

Sherando opens its 2016 season Friday night with a 7 p.m. home game against Louisa County and will play four out-of-state schools, including West Virginia’s Martinsburg (Sept. 2), Washington (Sept. 9) and Jefferson (Sept. 23) and Maryland’s Fort Hill (Oct. 21).

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