Sherando routs Handley, 42-7
STEPHENS CITY — Sherando coach Bill Hall has talked often this season about how important accountability and responsibility is to his team’s success.
It might not be possible for his players to execute their assignments perfectly all the time. But as the second half of the Warriors game with Handley Saturday night showed, they take a lot of pride in being able to do it.
With the desire to play even more physical the biggest objective, Sherando broke open a tight game at the half by exploding for 28 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 42-7 Northwestern District win over the Judges at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We talked about the standards that we hold each other to [at halftime],” said junior running back LeeQuan Johnson (19 carries), who rushed for 132 of his 186 yards and three of his four touchdowns after halftime. “Once we reminded each other, ‘Hey man, you need to do your job,’ or ‘you need to this, you need to do that,’ we were able to come out here and get it done.”
In terms of margin of victory, no team has been better in the 20-year history of the Sherando-Handley series than the Warriors (7-1, 2-0 Northwestern, first in the 4A North Region ratings) were Saturday night.
The Judges (4-3, 0-1, eighth in 4A North) — who lead the series 11-9 after losing their third straight in it — had the previous largest margin of victory, when they won by 29 in the inaugural game in 1994 (35-6). Sherando’s previous largest win was in last year’s 21-0 victory at the Handley Bowl.
The game went from a potential cliffhanger to a rout because of the Warriors’ second-half effort. After the break, Sherando scored touchdowns on its first three drives, gained 257 of its 387 yards (294 rushing on 40 carries, more than seven yards per rush), and held Handley to just 90 yards.
“We had opportunities in the first half, but we just didn’t make plays,” said Sherando coach Bill Hall of a stretch in which both teams had trouble getting into a rhythm after a downpour of rain just before the game. “But the second half we talked about how we wanted to be physical, move the ball down the field, run the ball. Our kids responded.
“They understood what they needed to do in the second half, and they did a good job executing. They were just physical, and I think our offseason conditioning program kicks in during the second half.”
The Warriors first drive of the second half didn’t look like it would last past midfield. But on second-and-25, Sherando senior quarterback Reid Entsminger hit senior tight end Tyler Hamilton for a 22-yard gain over the middle, and the Warriors recovered his fumble at the end of the play to give themselves a third-and-1 at the Handley 42.
Senior running back George Aston (14 carries, 78 yards, one touchdown) picked up eight yards on the next play.
Five plays later, Entsminger was forced to run at horizontally for about 20 yards because of pressure from Handley’s Marquaye Alexander-Jackson. But as he approached the right sideline he threw on the run to Adam Whitacre, who caught the ball in the back of the end zone just before he stepped out of bounds while making his own horizontal run to make it 21-7 with 6:40 left in the third quarter, capping a five-minute, 13-second drive.
“The first possession of the second half is always huge in terms of momentum,” Hall said.
After that, Handley fed into Sherando’s momentum. The Judges fumbled the ball on each of their next two drives, and the Warriors took advantage both times.
A Hamilton fumble recovery at the Judges’ 47 after the ball slipped out of Handley quarterback Will Dearing’s hand while attempting to throw led to a Johnson 47-yard touchdown run on the next play. On Handley’s next possession, a fumbled exchange on an end-around gave the Warriors the ball at the Handley 24. Johnson scored from 11 yards out four plays later to make it 35-7 with 36 seconds left in the first quarter.
Overall, Handley had four turnovers, and Sherando converted three of those into touchdowns. The Judges also had just 216 yards, 149 below their average.
“We executed, played physically, dominated the line of scrimmage, and dominated with our secondary,” said Hamilton of the defensive effort. “We just played good football.”
The Judges (4-3, 0-1) got a 60-yard touchdown run from D.J. Frisby (15 carries, 100 yards) to make it 14-7 with 2:35 left in the first half, but Handley only managed 156 yards outside of that run.
Handley coach Tony Rayburn said the Judges just couldn’t execute the way they wanted to against the Warriors.
“We did some things here and there, but they’re a tough, physical team,” Rayburn said. “They did a real nice job on the opening drive [of the second half]. That hurt us, and things just steamrolled. We turned the ball over, and you can’t give a team like Sherando the turnovers we did and have a chance to be in the game.”
Handley played its second straight game without explosive wide receiver Justin Washington, who hurt his knee Sept. 28 against Washington (W.Va.). Rayburn said Saturday night that Washington’s out for the year, though he did not want to specify the nature of the injury.
Rayburn said the Judges will just continue to work at being a team that can succeed like it did when it won four of its first five games.
“Our team goal this year is to make the playoffs, and we still have a chance to do that,” Rayburn said. “We’ll go to work next week, keep our heads up, and try and get better.”
Handley’s Ben Nelson had to leave the game on a stretcher Saturday, but Rayburn said Sunday his injury is not serious and the stretcher was used as mainly as a precaution.
Sherando is now 2-0 in the competition for the Barr-Lindon Crimson Apple, which is awarded each year by The Winchester Star to the team that fares the best between the Winchester-Frederick County schools. The Warriors have won this competition two years in a row. Handley is 0-1 in this competition.
Taking another step closer to that trophy Saturday was just another step in a strong season for the Warriors.
“Everybody’s just working together and putting in a lot of hard work,” Hamilton said. “This win means a lot to us.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.org
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