Lessons learned in state semifinal loss could fuel future for Warriors

SALEM – Sherando High School’s football team was shut out of the playoffs last season for the first time in seven years, an unpleasant outcome that added some extra fuel to the Warriors’ offseason leading into the 2017 season. Sherando may have just gotten its bulletin board material for the upcoming offseason.

The Warriors rebounded from last year’s 5-5 season to reach the VHSL Class 4 state semifinal, but Sherando left Salem on a sour note on Saturday afternoon after being handed a 49-14 loss that kept the Warriors a win shy of reaching their fifth state championship game appearance in program history.

You can bet Sherando, which figures to return plenty of the key pieces to this year’s 11-3 squad next fall, will use Saturday’s outcome as a piece to the foundation for 2018.

“Our guys are well aware that we return a lot of our skill guys, and our guys up front for that matter. And we’ve got a lot of really good young guys. So I think we can use this as a springboard and learning experience, and that’s what we plan to do,” Warriors head coach Bill Hall said shortly after Saturday’s semifinal loss. “We’ll learn from this and we’ll get better.

“I expect we’ll be playing these guys again next year,” he added, nodding toward a mass of Salem players celebrating their victory on the turf at Salem Stadium.

Sherando was thoroughly dominated by the two-time defending state champions on Saturday afternoon. The Spartans, led by senior running back De’Angelo Williams’ 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns, ran over the Warriors to the tune of 445 yards of total offense, and Salem’s defense notched six sacks and smothered Sherando’s offense until the game was well in hand.

Warriors junior offensive lineman/defensive tackle Isaiah Allen said Saturday provided a test of mental fortitude for Sherando against a physical opponent. It was a test the Warriors may not have felt they passed as they left the field.

“It was probably more mental on that aspect of you’ve gotta keep going hard every single play and you can’t take a play off. Some of the time, I think plays might’ve been taken off by one side or the other, which caused the score to go up,” Allen said. “I think that was definitely the biggest part, you’ve just gotta stay knowing that you gotta go hard every single play to keep it going.”

If there was a bright side to Saturday’s drubbing, it was that Sherando didn’t mail it in after heading into halftime trailing 35-0 after mustering just 51 yards of offense in the first half.

The Warriors generated nearly 200 yards of offense in the second half – which was played almost in its entirety with a running clock – and scored on a pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Hunter Entsminger.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re down 35 points and you’ve got goals and aspirations to make it another week,” Hall said. “I think that’s kind of the learning, growing-up process that everybody goes through, so you’re trying to wrap your emotions and all that stuff and still be productive and execute a game plan. Sometimes people lose sight of that, so I was proud of our guys responding in the second half.”

Despite the loss, Allen said the Warriors proved to themselves this season that “we can play football and really get after it” after a letdown season in 2016.

Entsminger agreed that the turnaround from 5-5 last year to 11-3 with a Region 4C championship and a spot in the state final four this fall was a success, regardless of Saturday’s outcome.

“I’ll take that,” Entsminger said of the Warriors’ improvement from last season. “I mean, it’s not the result we wanted but next year, with a lot of returners, I think we’ll be where we wanna be at the end.”