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2017 Football Coach of the Year: Hall unlocked Warriors’ potential in run to state semifinals

Bill Hall

STEPHENS CITY – A single photograph defined everything Sherando High School football coach Bill Hall hoped the Warriors would aim for during the 2017 season.

The photo — positioned prior to the start of his 15th season as head coach to be the first thing his players saw each day before practice — shows members of Sherando’s 2006 team are hoisting a regional championship trophy.

The trophy itself is located in the middle of the photograph, held high above the heads of a huddled group of players. To the left of the hardware, someone is raising the spear that is carried onto the field by a member of the football team before each game. To the right, a player is holding a Sherando football helmet.

It’s nearly impossible to identify any individuals in the photo, but that’s precisely the point.

“The thing I like about that picture is there’s no faces on that, which is what it’s all about,” said Hall, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2017 Football Coach of the Year.

“I wanted them to be able to visualize that. It’s just a team and that’s the goal,” he added, pointing to the trophy, “and so everything we do will be focused on that.”

That vision became reality a month ago, when Sherando beat Liberty for the Region 4C crown and advanced to the VHSL Class 4 state semifinals against Salem, before coming up a win shy of making its fifth state championship game appearance.

The Warriors (11-3), who fell to the now three-time defending state champs in the semis, had the ingredients for a deep playoff run a year after missing out on the postseason for the first time in seven years.

Foremost, the Warriors were talented. Junior quarterback Hunter Entsminger, the Region 4C Offensive Player of the Year, conducted an explosive offense flush with talent, a unit that included an electric running back in junior T.J. Washington – who accounted for over 2,800 all-purpose yards and 33 touchdowns – and a 1,000-yard receiver in senior Aaron Banks. On defense, junior Joseph “JoJo” Doleman was named the Region 4C Defensive Player of the Year and led a linebacker unit with plenty of college scholarship-level talent sandwiched between an athletic defensive line and secondary.

Sherando also had that moment during the season that almost always seems to propel a team toward greatness. In this case, a two-game stretch that included losses to Liberty and West Virginia powerhouse Martinsburg taught the Warriors what it took to compete and spurred on a seven-game win streak that carried them to the state final four.

And just as important, Hall said, the Warriors were receptive to coaching, a key trait of each of the teams Hall has taken on extended postseason runs. That allowed Hall to dig deep into the core of character building that he said is critical to a program’s success.

“As you get older and the more you do this, it’s so much about just getting those guys to reach their potential as people, and really that unlocks their potential as players,” Hall said. “But it’s not like that’s an easy process.”

The ability to help shape each of his players as human beings, Hall said, requires a level of trust and respect from players to the coaching staff that can now only be built through year-round relationship building. To Hall, the player-coach relationship is no longer built as it was when he was attending Strasburg High School, when he put his trust in former longtime head coach Glenn Proctor simply because the people around Hall told him that his head coach knew what he was talking about.

“That’s not our generation that we live in,” said Hall, who added that he’s always looking for ways to stay relevant with his players and enjoys showing his team the personal side of his life away from the football field. “(Today’s players) don’t know if I did anything 10 years ago. They don’t know that. Our guys, if it didn’t happen on social media in the last 10 minutes, they don’t even know about it.

“It’s so different now,” he continued. “All teams are built throughout the year. You get to see it on Friday nights but man, there are so many nights and months and years that go into a T.J. Washington exploding on the field on Friday night. If you ever knew what was behind that, it’d blow your mind. And you could say that about a lot of our guys. It’s just so much to come to that payday on a Friday night and it doesn’t happen for the four months that we’re together in football.”

In the case of the 2017 season, all of the behind-the-scenes work culminated in a regional championship, and a large contingent of Warriors will return next fall to do it all again with higher aspirations in mind.

The 2017 Region 4C title will make a nice addition to the trophy case, but to Hall it represents more than that. It’s tangible evidence of the greater goal of Sherando’s football program, one built on the values of hard work and dedication that its players can carry with them long after they step off the gridiron.

“The kids think it’s about winning,” Hall said, “but I think ultimately they end up down the road seeing it was really about football being the ultimate teacher on how to be successful in life.

“All the life lessons that you want, to say this is what it takes to be successful in life, well, football is our field that provides that for guys. That’s the reason why I coach football,” he continued. “For me, the success, I think, reaffirms that they’re getting the foundational characteristics that they need to be successful in life.”