Bauer sparks Warriors’ defense with big plays

BEALETON — Sherando had to play without Northwestern District Defensive Player of the Year JoJo Doleman due to injury on Friday night — and the Warriors’ defense didn’t miss a beat.

Sherando sophomore linebacker Payne Bauer had a team-best 13 tackles in the Warriors’ 33-21 Region 4C football final over Liberty.

“The (defensive) line they made me get every tackle, because they just do their job,” Bauer said. “And McKinley (Dean), the other inside linebackers that played (Friday), we just communicate because communication is key. And that’s why we won (Friday).”

Dean, a sophomore, and senior Michael Perry combined to fill in for Doleman’s inside linebacker spot. Sherando coach Bill Hall said he was very happy with how they filled in.

However, it was Bauer who came up with several big plays throughout the game.

Perhaps the biggest play Bauer made came on the final play of the first half. Liberty was facing a fourth-and-goal from the Sherando 4-yard line and the Warriors leading 20-7.

The Eagles tried to run wide receiver Markael Gaskins out of the wildcat formation. Bauer, who also had a sack in the game, stuffed Gaskins for a three-yard loss to end the half.

“I just saw an open hole, and I just ran through it,” Bauer said. “And I made the play when (Gaskins) cut back. It felt pretty good.”

Hall said Bauer, who leads the team in tackles this season, does a great job of being aggressive.

“The thing about him is he just pulls the trigger and goes,” Hall said of Bauer. “He didn’t play last year, so it’s kind of like he was so raw. So what you teach him is what he does. He’s just a blank canvas. And he’s done a great job being coached, coachable. And then he just does a great job executing.”

Bauer wasn’t the only linebacker making big plays for the Warriors in the win. Sherando senior Joe Kelliher recovered a Liberty fumble in the first half, which led to a Sherando touchdown.

“We talk about responding to adversity all the time, and that was an adverse situation,” Kelliher said. “And we were just trying to make a play — all of us. And it just ended up bouncing my way.”

The Warriors held Liberty to 288 total yards, and perhaps more importantly they limited the number of big plays the Eagles had.

Sherando had two goal-line stands in the game, both in the first half. Bauer said it showed how much heart the defense had.

“We played pretty good defense,” Bauer said. “Defense wins championships. Two goal-line stands — that’s pretty big. We got it done today.”