Warriors prepped to begin late playoff push against Fauquier
STEPHENS CITY – Sherando High School’s football team has won two straight games but actually dropped a spot this week to No. 5 in the latest playoff rankings for Region 4C, which sends its top six teams into the postseason. However, the Warriors have no reason to panic.
As head coach Bill Hall pointed out earlier this week, things tend to fall into place when the wins continue to come. If the Warriors can win each of their final two regular season games, Hall said, they should finish no lower than No. 2 in the regional playoff standings, and the region’s top seed is very much still in play for a Sherando team that missed the playoffs in 2016.
“We all have social media, we all see what’s going on but we definitely have a strong belief here,” Warriors junior quarterback Hunter Entsminger said. “If we win out we’re gonna be where we wanna be, and so we really just gotta perform from here on out.”
For the Warriors that means taking care of business against Fauquier in a 7 p.m. district matchup on tonight in Warrenton.
Sherando (6-2, 3-1 against Class 4 Northwestern District opponents) is coming off a 59-14 beat-down of Handley, while the Falcons got back on track with a 38-8 win over James Wood last week. That win snapped a five-game losing streak for Fauquier, which is just 2-6 overall this season and 1-3 in the district.
“I think it’s probably misleading because they struggled against Handley and then missed a 2-point conversion to beat Kettle Run, and Kettle Run beat Liberty last week,” Hall said of Fauquier’s record.
“I think they play hard. I think the thing that our guys have started to embrace is the fact that … you’re gonna get everyone’s best shot. You have to understand that scheme sometimes is so much overrated. It’s how people believe in what they’re doing and if they’ve got a shot to knock you off that puts a feather in their cap.”
The Warriors, who are limiting opposing teams to just 97.1 yards rushing per game, expect to see a heavy dose of Fauquier running back Kevin Chavis. The junior rushed for nearly 150 yards and three touchdowns against Wood, and Hall said the Falcons “go as he goes” on offense.
For the season Chavis is approaching 1,000 yards rushing while quarterback Jackson Eicher is nearing 1,000 yards passing, but the Falcons have struggled with ball security. Fauquier has turned the ball over 23 times this season, offering an enticing matchup for an opportunistic Sherando defense that has forced 21 turnovers this season.
“Turnovers are something we focus on all the time, especially us trying to create them, just because how it impacts the ballgame,” Hall said. “I think us being able to put them in predictable situations obviously helps us because all the sudden pressure and coverages that we run can give us an advantage, but you’ve gotta be able to put them in long-yardage situations.”
Sherando’s offense has thrived behind the big play all season, a theme that continued against Handley last week. The Warriors had five offensive touchdowns go for 24 yards or more against the Judges, including two scoring runs of 67 and 52 yards.
Entsminger is averaging 17.9 yards per completion this season, and six Warriors with six receptions or more are averaging at least 15 yards per catch. Junior running back T.J. Washington (810 yards rushing, 369 receiving) is averaging over nine yards per offensive touch, has scored 16 offensive touchdowns and has been explosive as a return man (four kick/punt return TDs).
“It’s just everyone executing, everyone doing their job,” Entsminger said of Sherando’s penchant for the big play. “Coach Hall really dumbs it down – just do your job and good things will happen. That’s really linemen doing their thing, getting the blocks, wide receivers running good routes, really just doing your job. That’s what it comes down to.”
Entsminger has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,520 yards, 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. The Warriors as a team are averaging 47.9 points and 396.5 yards per game.
Following this week’s matchup, Sherando takes on rival Millbrook in the season finale. The unbeaten Pioneers, who hold the top spot in Region 4C, travel to Liberty – the region’s current No. 2 team – on Friday night.
“We’re just gonna keep grinding every practice,” Warriors senior receiver/defensive back Frank Ritter said, “everything we’re just gonna keep grinding because that’s what we want. We want the playoffs.”