Warriors ready for first true test against Loudoun Valley

Bill Hall

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando High School has rumbled through its first three football games of the 2017 season, outdistancing itself from the competition in the first half of each contest and rolling to a trio of heavily lopsided victories. Things figure to get a little tougher for the Warriors tonight.

Sherando hosts Loudoun Valley at 7 p.m. in a non-district matchup between two Class 4 schools, and though the Vikings enter Week 4 still seeking their first win of the season, their 0-2 record is a bit misleading.

Loudoun Valley, a playoff team under head coach Anthony Long in 2016, opened the new season with a 42-14 loss to defending West Virginia Class AAA state champion Martinsburg, then fell to in-state power Stone Bridge – last year’s Group 5A state runner-up – by a score of 38-7 in Week 2 before last week’s bye.

“We’re expecting a test,” said Sherando head coach Bill Hall, whose team has yet to experience such this fall. “I think when you don’t expect a test, that’s when you’re gonna be very sorry. … I think your approach has to always been the same in terms of when you’re designing game plans. We think we have a good game plan but again we expect to be tested, but we expect to execute at a very high level. At the end of the day if you execute at a high level and you execute the game plan, then you can usually live with the result.”

The results have certainly been favorable for the Warriors (3-0) so far. They’ve outscored opponents by a combined score of 183-27 in victories over James Wood, Jefferson (West Virginia) and Broadway, are averaging 400 yards of offense per game, have forced nine turnovers and are thriving on special teams on the legs of electric running back/kick returner T.J. Washington.

Sherando’s  defense has been stingy, surrendering just 116.7 yards per game to opposing teams – nearly the exact same total that Loudoun Valley’s own offense is averaging through two games.

Hall said the Vikings, a spread team in the past, are running the single-wing under Long. Valley is averaging 73.5 rushing yards per game, led by senior running back Rock Swartz’s 45 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.

The Vikings have used two different quarterbacks in seniors Ben Weist and Samuel Allen, though both have combined for just 85 yards on 5-of-17 passing.

“They’re a predominant run team, so I think they’re growing in that,” said Hall, whose defense is holding opponents to 26.7 yards rushing. “I think the thing is obviously they were tested by two really, really good teams and now they’ve had a week off. So all the sudden you can make a lot of adjustments and you’ve gone up against some really tough competition. It’s not like they haven’t been battle-tested, so we can’t present anything more than they’ve already seen in terms of physicality.”

Defensively, Hall said the Vikings have traditionally run an odd stack and have shown a 3-2 box this season.

Sherando’s offense has thrived behind Washington, a junior who has accumulated 488 yards of offense (327 rushing, 161 receiving) and 11 total touchdowns (six rushing, two receiving, three on kick/punt returns) in three games.

Junior quarterback Hunter Entsminger has been efficient for the Warriors, completing 24 of 32 passes (75 percent) for 524 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

“(Loudoun Valley has) been two high safety, a lot of cover 4-type stuff. That’s kind of what we’re expecting,” Hall said of the Vikings’ defense. “All our passing concepts account for one high safety, two high safeties, cover 2, cover 4, man, so we have all those built in. So if for some reason they do switch coverage it changes our re-progression, is all it does. That’s kind of my job as the coordinator is to make sure I got answers for things they throw out there.”

Asked how the Warriors prevent themselves from becoming too content with their early season performance, Hall said the team goes through “reality checks” each Saturday morning during film review, during which the Warriors have done a good job recognizing the good things as well as the areas that still need improvement.

“I think where we’ve seen it transfer over and carry over is in practice,” Hall said. “The best teams we’ve ever had here have always been good practice teams. And so we laid that out it in the beginning of the season, like if you wanna be special you have to be a great practice team. You can’t just all the sudden show up Friday night and expect that to happen.

“They’ve done a good job with that. They’ve embraced that. One week they started off slow and we kind of laid into them and they kind of took it seriously. … So they’ve done a good job responding to that.”