Warriors’ quest for bounce-back season starts with Colonels

Bill Hall

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando High School’s football team missed out on the playoffs last season, snapping a streak of seven straight postseason appearances for the Warriors under head coach Bill Hall. Sherando’s quest for a bounce back to form in 2017 begins tonight.

The Warriors host James Wood at Arrowhead Stadium at 7 p.m. today in what is a rare early season contest against a Frederick County and district rival, the result of the expansion of the Northwestern District this season.

The game adds a little more significance to the season opener in the fact that it is a district contest, but Hall said the Warriors have approached the game just as they would any other week.

“The thing you try to get across to your kids is understanding how you’re on a race with time trying to realize your potential, so every week, every day, every drill, every period is so important to doing that,” Hall said Wednesday. “You just try for them to kind of get that urgency for the moment at hand and it just so happened this week it’s James Wood. I mean it wouldn’t matter if it was anybody else, either. There’s really just that urgency to realize their potential.”

Sherando, which went 5-5 last season, picked up one of its wins in 2016 in a 34-0 blowout of the Colonels. It was Sherando’s eighth straight win over James Wood, which has beaten the Warriors only twice since Sherando opened in 1993, but Warriors junior quarterback Hunter Entsminger said the Colonels aren’t to be taken lightly.

Hunter Entsminger

“They’ve played us tough in plenty of games as far as I can remember,” Entsminger said. “They’re always gonna be that team that just sticks around. They played us tough in many games. You can’t look past any team, no matter who they are. James Wood, I know they’re gonna come out and play their best game. We’ve just gotta come out and play ours and hopefully come out on the good side.”

Sherando’s offense, which averaged 42.3 points and 383.8 yards per game in 2016, returns many of its key pieces from a season ago. Entsminger threw for 1,337 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016, and junior T.J. Washington returns to an experienced backfield after rushing for 1,243 yards and 16 TDs as a sophomore. The Warriors also return their leading receiver from last season in senior Aaron Banks.

Hall said he expects James Wood, which was 2-8 last season and opens the 2017 campaign under new head coach Ryan Morgan, to operate out of a 4-4 base defense.

“They’ve been a primarily one high safety team but they showed two high safeties last year and they have the same defensive coordinator. So, you know, we’ll be prepared for both those things,” Hall said. “Obviously you like to be ahead of the chains where you can kind of dictate tempo on flow of the game, what you wanna run as opposed to being behind the chains where all the sudden they can dictate that kind of stuff. It’ll be important for us to do a good job staying on schedule.”

Defensively, Sherando lost its top four tacklers from a season ago and linebacker Dylan Rivers, who is now at Virginia Tech, though the Warriors do return an experienced defensive line and three starting linebackers in JoJo Doleman, Michael Perry and Joe Kelliher.

Michael Perry

Hall said James Wood, which will debut a new starting quarterback this fall, ran a wing-T offense in its two preseason scrimmages. The Colonels’ leading rusher from last season, sophomore William Crowder, is back after rushing for 368 yards in 2016, and James Wood boasts some size up front.

“There’ll be a lot of pressure on our guys to execute, bounce and spill and containing or forcing based on who’s doing which of those jobs. Just making sure we’re executing versus what they’re doing,” said Hall, whose defense allowed 186.6 yards rushing and 289.3 total yards of offense in 2016.

“And I think eye discipline with linebackers is key and eye discipline with your secondary because play-action usually is such a big deal for that (offense).”

Perry said it’s “very important” for Sherando to open the season with a victory Friday night, particularly after failing to do so last season set the tone for the Warriors’ first non-winning season since Hall’s first season at the school.

“If you win the first game it’s a good start to the season. That’s what we didn’t do last year and faced some adversity last year,” Perry said. “This year I think we’ve got a great chance and first game, if we start out with a win it’s gonna make a good season.”