STEPHENS CITY – Hunter Entsminger didn’t care if he had to play through pain, he wasn’t going to let an injury stop him.
When Sherando High School trainer Tim Duvall told the Sherando senior quarterback midway through the season that Entsminger couldn’t play with a knee bone bruise, he wasn’t hearing it.
“(Duvall) told me I couldn’t play the next game,” Entsminger said. “And I told him I’ll be back. I played that week.”
Entsminger, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Offensive Football Player of the Year, suffered the bone bruise against Martinsburg, the sixth game of the regular season.
He played the entire game against Martinsburg and then played the next two weeks with the injury before Sherando coach Bill Hall rested him against Fauquier. Entsminger played in the regular season finale against Millbrook as well.
Entsminger said it wasn’t easy playing through the injury, but he never considered not playing.
“It was tough,” he said. “I had never really been injured before, and just the mental part was tough like just being able to stay in the game even though I really couldn’t run. The mental part was killing me it was like I’m not 100 percent, but I still got to go out there and show my guys that I’m not going to quit just because one little thing happened. Just getting over the hump of ‘I’m OK. I can do this.’ Just having that take a toll on the body.”
Despite not being 100 percent, Entsminger still put up impressive numbers and led the Warriors to win after win.
Hall said that each week Entsminger had to prove to him that he could protect himself on the field. Hall said Entsminger also regularly talked with his parents and Duvall to make sure everyone was OK with Entsminger playing.
“When you think of the pain he was enduring just so he could go out there and play with his teammates, I think it speaks to the level of character that he has,” Hall said. “I think his knowledge of our offense, his competitiveness all those things allowed him to persevere through a very trying situation.”
Entsminger, who has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at James Madison University, led the Warriors to the No. 2 seed in Region 4C. During the regional semifinals against Kettle Run, he was dealt a devastating blow. He suffered an injury to his lateral collateral ligament, which ended his season.
He found out midway through the week of the Region 4C final against Woodgrove that he couldn’t play.
“It was heartbreaking when the doctor told me I couldn’t play,” Entsminger said. “It would be the last time I ever played a football game. So it sucks to have something that you played your whole life end like that to where you didn’t even get to make the decision. Ultimately I was looking forward to the next stage of my life because I know as much as I love football it’s not where I’m going in life. So I just had to look out for the overall health of myself at that point – but it was still hard.”
The injuries he had to overcome make Entsminger’s statistical numbers even more impressive. He finished with 1,857 yards passing, completing 100 of 148 pass attempts. He threw 18 touchdown passes with only three interceptions.
Entsminger also ran for 276 yards, almost all of them coming in the first six games, and had three rushing scores. He also had one touchdown reception on a trick play for 11 yards. Entsminger finished with 2,142 total yards of offense in 10 games, most of which he only played a half due to Sherando having a big lead.
He said that his favorite pass came on an 80-yard touchdown throw to Nick Mazza against Loudoun Valley. Entsminger said he didn’t even know where Mazza was when he threw the ball.
“I didn’t see him during the play. It was before the play I saw him match up with the dude that I wanted,” Entsminger said. “So I go out on the play action, and I just chucked it. I didn’t know where he was at. I just threw it, and it ended up being a perfect ball, probably the best ball I threw all season. It was like 50 yards down the field. I amazed myself on that play.”
Another memorable play for Entsminger was his touchdown reception from Mazza in the Warriors’ loss to Martinsburg.
Entsminger said that he had been telling Hall for three years that he wanted to get a touchdown catch. Entsminger said that as a sophomore the Warriors had called a play for him to get a catch, but the throw was low and fell incomplete. So he wanted another opportunity, and it came in one of the biggest games of the season.
The usually calm and steady Entsminger admitted he was a little nervous when the play was called.
“When it was called I was like ‘I can’t drop it. I can’t drop it,’” Entsminger said. “And it was against Martinsburg too. So I was like I definitely can’t drop this. When it was caught it was like ‘whew.’ It was like a sigh of relief. I finally got that receiving touchdown.”
Entsminger said that the Martinsburg game is the one that stands out the most to him.
The Warriors trailed the West Virginia powerhouse Bulldogs by 19 points with six minutes left. Sherando rallied to cut the lead to just five with a minute left, and they had the ball before ultimately coming up short.
“That just really showed what type of team we were,” Entsminger said. “We weren’t going to back down.”
The Warriors went 10-2 on the season, with both losses coming to eventual state champions. Entsminger said it was disappointing that the Warriors, who were state semifinalists last year, didn’t make it back to the state semifinals or finals. However, he said he felt like the team still had a good season overall.
Hall said that Entsminger’s knowledge of the game and willingness to learn and get better are a big part of what made him so successful on the field.
“What made Hunter great was he didn’t have to think about it,” Hall said. “Once the ball gets snapped, all those things got done, and then he could just play. The biggest thing that slows people down is they have to think through things which slows them down. So again I think that’s what’s allowed him and our quarterback’s in the past is they put in a lot of time so they understand what we’re trying to accomplish. So then when the ball’s snapped, they can just play football.”
Entsminger said he enjoys watching film and learning plays and schemes. Every school day since his first week as a freshman he would head to Hall’s office during study hall to look at film and talk football.
Both Hall and Entsminger admitted it’s been a little weird the last few weeks not seeing each other in Hall’s office and going over game plans and schemes.
All of Entsminger’s time and effort paid off over his stellar three-year career as Sherando’s starting quarterback. He finished with 5,930 yards, second all-time in school history.
Entsminger was just three touchdowns shy of former Division 1 quarterback Ross Metheny’s career school record of 69 touchdown passes. Entsminger is first or second all-time in seven of Sherando’s nine record categories.
He has the most yardage in a season (2,736 yards in 2017), most completions in a season (164 in 2017), most touchdown passes in a season (33 in 2017), and most touchdown passes in a game (5 in 2016).
Entsminger said it’s an honor to be on the list with so many great quarterbacks at Sherando such as Metheny, former NFL player Kelley Washington and Entsminger’s brother Reid.
Entsminger has left a mark on the program that will last a long time, and he said one of the things he will miss the most is just the atmosphere of playing at Sherando’s Arrowhead Stadium on Friday nights.
“The atmosphere. You’re not going to get back another Friday night,” Entsminger said of what he loves most about football. “You can’t beat that – a Friday night in Arrowhead. There’s nothing better than you coming down those stairs and it’s thousands of fans screaming at you. It’s something I’m going to miss a lot. You won’t get back Friday nights. Even if you go play football in college you play on Saturday night. You’re not going to get another Friday night feeling when you’re there. You have all the fans behind you, basically the whole community. Everybody’s behind you, and they’re just rooting on one team. It’s just the whole atmosphere on Friday nights – it’s just the best.”