Warriors aiming to get back on track against Kettle Run

Bill Hall

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando High School’s football team has lost back-to-back games against tough competition in Liberty and Martinsburg (West Virginia), but head coach Bill Hall said Thursday that the recent skid doesn’t have the Warriors “down in the dumps.”

Sherando’s goal of returning to the playoffs after a rare postseason absence in 2016 is still well within reach with four regular season games remaining. The Warriors get their next crack at win No. 5 when they host Kettle Run in a Class 4 Northwestern District matchup at 7 p.m. tonight.

“I think our guys are very workmanlike,” Hall said. “I mean I think they understand that we’ve played two really good teams and we faced some adversity in both those games, and I think we learned a lot about ourselves. We control our own destiny so there’s no panic or anything like that. I think our guys embrace the fact that they’ve got the potential to be pretty good, and they also know that the only way that you’re gonna be good is when you test yourself against good people and you figure out where you are and where you need to improve.”

Sherando’s losses over the last two weeks came on the heels of four straight blowout victories to start the season. In last week’s 31-28 loss to Martinsburg, the Warriors held a touchdown lead over the defending West Virginia Class AAA state champs on three different occasions but ultimately fell on a go-ahead field goal with 28 seconds left.

The Bulldogs scored 10 unanswered points over the final five minutes of the game, and Hall said the Warriors dealt with cramping issues late in the loss that had Sherando operating at less than full strength.

Hall added that the Warriors have reevaluated how they go about practice and how players are taking care of their bodies to prevent a recurrence of cramping problems, but he said Sherando wasn’t helped early in the season when its starters were playing no more than a half during blowout games.

“That kind of caught up,” Hall said. “That’s probably more on me than anybody, just that we weren’t where we needed to be to be able to finish that game. I take responsibility for that.”

Sherando (4-2, 0-1 Northwestern District) will look to rebound against a Kettle Run squad that is 6-1 (2-1 in Northwestern District) following a 21-20 win over Fauquier last week.

The Cougars enter tonight averaging 38.7 points per game. Senior quarterback Casen Chumley has thrown for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns, completing at least 13 passes to three different receivers. Senior receiver David Haiss has caught five touchdowns and is averaging 27 yards per reception, and junior running back Ridge Scott leads a Kettle Run rushing attack with 567 yards and seven touchdowns.

“They’re similar to us from a standpoint of personnel groups that they use, like they use a tight end and a fullback, use double tight end. They’ll also do some spread stuff, so they’re kind of multiple like that,” said Hall, whose defense is limiting opposing offenses to 223.2 yards per game, tops among local schools, and has forced 16 turnovers. “They have two good running backs that run hard, and their quarterback’s not afraid to put the ball down the field. There’s no fear in the passing game.”

Kettle Run’s defense is giving up 17.4 points per game and has allowed more than 20 points only once in seven games this season. Millbrook put up 40 points in a blowout win over the Cougars on Sept. 29.

Hall said Kettle Run isn’t a defense that is going to sit back and keep everything in front of it, preferring instead to bring pressure – especially in long-yardage situations – and to load up the box.

“Any time you put that many people in the box it’s gonna be tough sledding. The good thing about that is any time something breaks it usually breaks long,” Hall said. “They put a lot of pressure on you in terms of they do a lot of man concepts and things like that, so you have to understand there’s gonna be some negative plays but you’ve gotta stick with it, and when things break they’ll break good.”

The Warriors’ have shown a penchant for the big play this season. Junior quarterback Hunter Entsminger (67.4 completion percentage, 1,207 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, two interceptions) is averaging 18.9 yards per completion, and electric running back/return man T.J. Washington has piled up 1,328 all-purpose yards and 15 total touchdowns.

Sherando enters Friday’s game eighth in the latest VHSL Region 4C playoff rankings, while Kettle Run is fourth. The top six teams make the regional field, unless an outright district champion is not among those six teams, in which case eight teams will qualify.

“I thought we progressed a lot from the Liberty game to the Martinsburg game,” Hall said. “If we continue to progress from Martinsburg that much in the next week then that’s a good sign for us. … (What we learned) from Martinsburg is you learn that you can compete with anybody with the right mindset every single play. So I think they learned a lot of valuable, positive lessons from that, that you can apply moving forward to a game like Kettle Run.”