STEPHENS CITY – After losing to one undefeated opponent last week, Sherando now has to play another undefeated team.

The Warriors (3-3, 1-2 Class 4 Northwestern) play at rival Handley in a Class 4 Northwestern District football matchup at 1 p.m. today. Sherando senior wide receiver/defensive back Jabril Hayes said that he’s excited to play a rival, and one that he knows will give their all against the Warriors.

“It’s always fun playing Handley because they always come out and give 100 percent and those are the games that you like playing,” Hayes said after Monday’s practice. “You don’t want to come out against teams that aren’t good and just not giving any effort. So when we come to play Handley, we come to play Handley. They’re going to trade blows. We’re going to trade blows. It’s going to be a good game.”

Hayes said that he enjoys playing on a Saturday and for him several other players on the team they are hoping to play on Saturdays in college, so it’s a good experience for all of them.

The Judges (6-0, 3-0 Class 4 Northwestern) are led by senior quarterback Malachi Imoh, who has rushed for 1,145 yards on 107 carries with 18 touchdowns. Imoh has also thrown for 719 yards on 47-of-90 passing with six touchdowns.

“He’s 80 percent of their offensive snaps,” Sherando head coach Bill Hall said. “He’s a really good player. They do a good job of highlighting him. He’s definitely the key to what they’re doing.”

Hall said that his team’s defense can’t be worried about stopping Imoh, but simply try to slow him down and limit his big plays.

“They have to have an understanding that you need to slow him down – you’re not going to contain him, stop him,” Hall said. “He accounts for 80 percent of their offense. It’s about fitting properly. When you do miss, missing on the proper side so the other fits can happen properly. It’s about running to the ball. It’s about making sure that we implement the plan that we’ve practiced during the week. I think we have a good plan. It’s about executing that plan, sticking with that plan. How do we respond when things don’t go our way? He’s going to make plays, that’s part of the reality of the situation. And I think our guys have shown that they are a resilient group and they’ll respond – and they always seem to.”

Handley’s offense is averaging 39.5 points per contest this season.

Sherando’s defense has allowed 20.6 points and 305 yards per game this year. Sherando senior linebacker Payne Bauer has led the way with an area-best nine sacks, 43 tackles and one interception, while senior linebacker McKinley Dean also has 43 tackles for the Warriors.

Hall said that he was pleased with how his defense performed in a 20-13 loss last week to undefeated Liberty.

It was the Warriors’ offense that struggled in the defeat, mostly due to penalties.

“I was just disappointed that we didn’t put a better product out there, didn’t show ourselves better,” Hall said. “Credit to them, they played a good game. But ultimately it comes down to me. I’m the one in charge of making sure we have a good product to put out there. So now it’s how can we get better?”

Hall said a big key is eliminating the costly penalties. The Warriors had 10 penalties for 78 yards and Hall said the penalties hurt the offense and forced them to have to pass more in situations where Liberty knew a pass was coming. It took Sherando out of their game plan.

Hall said the Warriors average nine explosive plays per game, but only had three against Liberty. He said two of the explosive plays came on Sherando’s first two drives, which ended with touchdowns and the last one came on the final drive of the game.

Hayes said the Warriors lacked energy against Liberty in the second half.

“We just got to bring more energy,” Hayes said. “We came out a little flat after halftime. So I think that was definitely a big momentum switch for them. They took off from there – stopping us on drives. We had a couple plays that didn’t go our way that would have been very helpful for us in that half. We just have to make sure that we’re doing everything that coach Hall installs (in the offense) for us throughout the week, moving fast, moving quick throughout the week. So that’s important for us.”

Sherando senior running back Darius Lane has an area-best 921 yards on 142 carries and 10 touchdowns. Sherando sophomore quarterback Dylan Rodeffer has thrown for 611 yards on 58-of-103 passing with five touchdowns. Hayes leads the receivers with 454 yards on 34 receptions and seven scores.

Handley’s defense is allowing 13.2 points per contest. Hall said the Judges will provide a challenge for his offense.

There will be plenty on the line between the two teams. That includes the Apple Cup, a trophy given to the team with the best record in matchups between all the Frederick County/Winchester City schools. It will also be a key game in the Class 4 Northwestern District standings, the top four teams in the standings advance to the postseason.

“It’s always good playing (local) teams,” Hayes said. “It’s a lot of fun to play them because we’re all battling for the Apple Cup. So it’s going to be fun going out there and playing against them and to see what they got.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com