Sherando football routs Amherst, 49-15

Posted: November 16, 2013

Special to The Winchester Star

Sherando running back George Aston rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns to help the Warriors to a 49-15 win over Amherst in the 4A North Region first round Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Sherando’s Branden Litten caught four passes for 80 yards to help the Warriors to a 49-15 win over Amherst Friday night in Stephens City. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

STEPHENS CITY — The main mission for the Sherando football team for its playoff opener against Amherst County on Friday night was to take care of business early and keep building throughout the game.

That meant that offense, defense, and special teams all had to be on the same page if the Warriors hoped to advance to the next round of the Group 4A North Region and gain their first playoff win since 2009.

Boy, did Sherando ever send a message.

The No. 1 rated team in the region, the Warriors sure played like a top seed, scoring two touchdowns off a pair of early miscues by the No. 16 Lancers and coasting on to a 49-15 win at Arrowhead Stadium.

Need an example of Sherando’s latest dominance?

Total offense pretty much spells it out. Sherando had 561 total yards to 99 put up by Amherst.

“I thought we did a good job in all phases,” Sherando coach Bill Hall said. “Your offense is having big plays, your defense is making big plays.

“You know, I think that’s when preparation meets opportunity.”

The Warriors (10-1) were ahead 21-8 by the end of the first quarter, led 28-8 at the half, and hit another big-play score to begin the second half when senior quarterback Reid Entsminger found classmate Daniel Eppard open for an 80-yard touchdown pass.

Two more scores in the fourth quarter put a feather in their cap as the Warriors topped 40 points for the seventh straight game and eighth time this season.

“The key from the start was we wanted to set the tone for this game,” said Entsminger, who burned Amherst through play-action the entire game to pass for 275 yards (10 of 12) and two touchdowns. “They’re a fast team and they’ve got a bunch of athletes. We just wanted to come out on top and get ahead. That’s what we did in the first half, scored two touchdowns right off the bat.

“That just set the tempo and momentum for us, and from then on, we were just all excited and pumped up.”

Two fumbles by the Lancers before the game was five minutes old produced a 14-0 lead for Sherando.

On the game’s opening series, Amherst senior quarterback D.A. Christian lost the handle as he faded back to pass and Eppard covered up the fumble for Sherando at the Amherst 29-yard line.

Power running followed, and senior fullback George Aston went over from the 6 to cap the drive at the 8:32 mark.

Disaster struck Amherst again when senior Deandre Kyle could not handle a pooch kick, and junior Quinton Rohrbaugh recovered for the Warriors.

Again with a short field to work with, starting from the Amherst 24, Entsminger found sophomore James Tinsman open on a crossing pattern to the 1 on the first play.

A no-gain by Aston and motion penalty set the Warriors back briefly, but Entsminger rolled right from the 6 and hit Eppard with a touchdown pass and 14-0 lead with 7:04 still left in the first quarter.

The Lancers (3-8) must have felt the momentum changing slightly after Sherando junior Adam Whitacre fumbled a fair catch at his 36. Amherst scored in three plays, with Christian going the final 16 yards.

A two-point run out of a muddle-huddle by the Lancers cut Sherando’s lead to 14-8.

But just like that, the Warriors sent Amherst into the dumps by breaking another big-play score.

Taking a quick pop up the middle, Sherando junior LeeQuan Johnson (19 carries for 153 yards rushing) sprinted into the clear before swinging down the right sideline and going 81 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-8 with 2:55 left in the first quarter.

“I just saw the hole, and my offensive line did an outstanding job,” Johnson said. “My fullback got in there and got the block like he was supposed to do. I trusted Branden Litten [up field] to throw a block, and he did [too].”

In the second quarter, the Warriors were facing second and seven at their 10, when Entsminger went back on play-action and spotted Tinsman open again cutting across to the outside. Tinsman’s gain of 70 got Sherando to the Amherst 13, and Aston finished it off from there from the 2 for a 28-8 lead at the half.

“It was a lack of execution, and that’s kind of been our problem the whole year,” Amherst coach Cecil Phillips said. “We have never been able to overcome those small things, such as taking care of the football.

“We spotted them 14 points real quick, and with a team the caliber of Sherando, you cannot do that.”

On the first play of the third quarter, Entsminger continued to make Amherst pay. Again seeing a mismatch he could expose with the Lancers gambling that Sherando would stay with the run, Entsminger threw to an open Eppard down the middle, and Eppard showed a burst of speed from there to go 80 yards for a touchdown.

“Coming in, that’s something we thought we could hit on big,” Hall said. “They just showed that the free safety was really hard [coming up on the run] downhill. If we could establish the run, we knew we could take some shots over the top. We could do that with multiple personnel and multiple formations. Reid did a good job taking what they gave us.”

Only 19 seconds had elapsed in the second half, and the Warriors already were ahead by 27.

“Coach Hall showed me on film how [the safety] bites [on the run] and I was like ‘Wow,’” Entsminger said. “That was our game plan, to power the ball up the middle then go play-action. Coach Hall is a smart man because that worked terrifically tonight, and I’ve got to give him props for that.”

Trusting his receivers well and picking the Lancers apart, Entsminger balanced his targets to get Tinsman (93 receiving yards), Eppard (86), and Litten (80) plenty of touches.

The Warriors had trouble at times holding onto the football (three turnovers) and two of the giveaways set Amherst up well and led to touchdowns by the Lancers.

But Sherando, which is now on a nine-game win streak, would not be denied. Johnson scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth and Entsminger won a race to the left pylon from the 6 with just 1:43 left to make for another lopsided margin of victory for the Warriors.

The defense was a spark all game long, too. Amherst never could get much going by heading to the edge or trying trick plays because the Warriors had things sealed up.

“I thought our [defensive] guys did a great job executing,” Hall said. “Obviously we’ll have to watch film. The thing that hurt us tonight was when they just ran straight ahead. When they would try and block down and do kick-out schemes, we did really well versus those schemes.”

The Lancers had a net of just 63 rushing yards in 35 carries (1.8 per carry). If it was not a sack, one of the many botched snaps or lost fumbles — they had three — or just not being able to control clock to keep Sherando’s brilliant offensive attack off the field, Amherst had its share of troubles.

“They have a very stout defense and have one of the best linebacking corps I’ve seen this year,” Phillips said.

Hall said some people had spoke about getting some “revenge” after the Warriors lost to Amherst 56-10 in the state Division 4 final in 2007. But Hall told his players to focus on the now and take care of what they could control, since most of the players currently playing were in middle school or younger back then, anyway.

A playoff win, still, was a good feeling for Sherando’s players. The Warriors last won in the postseason in 2009, when they beat James Wood 13-7.

The Warriors will host either No. 9 Liberty or No. 8 Handley (they play today) next Friday in the second round.