Start of NWD district play takes everything up a notch for Sherando and James Wood
WINCHESTER — Sherando and James Wood may share residence in the same county, but they’re not sharing common ground when it comes to success on the football field this season.
The Frederick County schools will renew their rivalry at 7 tonight at the Colonels’ Kelican Stadium in the first Northwestern District game for both teams. Sherando (5-1, 0-0 Northwestern District) leads the series with James Wood (0-6, 0-0) 20-2, and won 50-14 last year at Arrowhead Stadium.
Despite the records, this game will never not have meaning.
“You can’t look past anyone,” said Sherando senior quarterback/safety Reid Entsminger. “Plus, they’re in our district, and they’re going to play their best game. We’re going to be hyped, they’re going to be hyped, and we just have to stick with it four quarters.”
Tonight’s contest will also serve as James Wood’s Homecoming game, and the opening game in the hunt 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.
Sherando has captured the trophy each of the past two years, and the Warriors have the look of a team that’s more than capable of a third.
Sherando is ranked third in the 4A North Region power ratings, with the lone loss coming to Martinsburg, the three-time defending Class AAA West Virginia state champions who have compiled a record of 46-2 over the last three and a half seasons.
The Warriors are coming off a 45-23 victory against Liberty, a score that was actually more impressive than it looks. Sherando coach Bill Hall and Entsminger felt the first three quarters of that game were the best the Warriors have played all season — Sherando piled up a 33-3 lead after 36 minutes.
Prior to Liberty’s final drive of the third quarter, Sherando had yielded just 111 yards of offense, and a Warriors’ offense that typically is defined by its rushing game showed that it can beat teams through the air if it needs to.
The Warriors rushed for 177 yards but got 340 yards on 15-of-18 passing and a school-record five touchdowns passes from Entsminger. Entsminger — who also rushed for two touchdowns — broke current University of South Alabama senior quarterback Ross Metheny’s school record of four touchdown passes that he set almost exactly six years ago against Central on Oct. 5, 2007.
“We feel like we can hang with any team in the state if we play to our full potential,” Entsminger said. “The Liberty game showed what we can do, and showed that we’re getting there. We’re close to playing to our full potential.”
James Wood (0-6) is ranked 28th out of the 28 teams in 4A North. The Colonels have now lost 15 straight games since winning their season opener in 2012. After taking a step forward two weeks ago in a 21-20 loss to Fauquier, they regressed in losing 24-3 to Broadway last week.
The Colonels — who have already lost two starting offensive linemen for the year because of injuries — may not have quarterback Cam Butler tonight because of a meniscus injury to his left knee.
James Wood coach Mark McHale — who returns this week after serving a one-game suspension following his ejection against Fauquier — said Butler will be a game-time decision. James Wood’s offensive line will benefit from the return of right tackle Cody Feltner, who has missed significant time this season because of injury.
Despite those injury issues, the Fauquier game showed the Colonels can be a threat. And giving up 20 points in the fourth quarter against Liberty reminded the Warriors that they could never rest against any team.
Because they lost focus, Entsminger said Sherando’s coaching staff had them run Monday.
“We did one of our hero drills, where we do about 10, 11 100-yard sprints,” Entsminger said. “We got the message.”
For the Warriors, Hall said it’s about “playing up to the standard of performance” the Warriors have set for themselves, and they’re doing that.
For James Wood, it’s about finding consistency, and with so many personnel changes on the offensive line, it’s no wonder the Colonels are having a hard time finding it.
“Fauquier, we really blocked up front, and I thought that was the best defensive line we’ve faced all season,” said Butler, who did not practice Wednesday. “Our offensive line did great. But last week, we didn’t have that same burst up front. The whole team just didn’t have that same burst.”
James Wood finished with just 82 yards even though Butler ran for 43 yards on James Wood’s first play.
Ideally, the Colonels will have Butler under center tonight because he’s James Wood’s best option for a balanced attack.
But wide receiver Brady Hepner — who has missed the last two games with an injury of his own — could provide a jolt to the running game at quarterback because of his ability to run the read-option. Hepner ran for 95 yards playing quarterback in the season opener against Heritage when Butler had to sit because of injury.
“Playing in that game helped, so my confidence is up playing quarterback,” Hepner said. “I’m relaxed back there.”
No matter what position Hepner is playing tonight, he and the rest of the Colonels know that anything less than their best won’t be acceptable against a team like Sherando.
“We can’t make mistakes, because Sherando I think is the best team in the district,” McHale said. “We can’t turn the ball over at all, we can’t get any holding calls or do something that sets us back 15 yards, because we won’t be able to match up with them if we do that. We can’t break down in the kicking game.
“We’ve got to be perfect in assignments and execution and all that. That’s going to be the key to us being even in the game.”
It’s one that, after a slate of non-district games, signifies that the season is just heating up even while the weather gets cooler.
“We’ve just got to play together as a team, fly around, and make plays,” said Sherando senior cornerback Isaiah Williams, who for three weeks now has been sporting a blonde Mohawk after Hall and players started calling him “Honey Badger,” a reference to the former LSU star and current Arizona Cardinal defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (Williams wears No. 7, the same number Mathieu wore in college). “It’s a district game, and I think a lot of people are going to be there because we’re the only local teams playing around here.
“We’ve been playing against some of these guys since middle school, and it’s going to be a lot fun playing against them [tonight].”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1