NOKESVILLE — Another previously injured weapon was added to the Sherando football team's arsenal on Friday night, and it wasted no time making an impact.
Senior safety Zach Kim — who had not played since making two interceptions in the Warriors' season-opening win against James Wood because of an injury — blocked a Kettle Run punt with 7:49 remaining, and one play later Darius Lane gave the Warriors their first double-digit lead of the night with a 30-yard touchdown run.
Three minutes later the Warriors made their fifth fourth-down stop of the night in their own territory (four turnovers on downs and a blocked field goal), and Sherando then ran out the clock for a hard-fought 21-7 Class 4 Northwestern District win over Kettle Run.
Lane was tackled three yards short of the end zone on a 21-yard run on the game's final play to finish off a performance in which he carried the ball 24 times for 198 yards and three TDs.
Sherando (7-3, 5-2 district) will head to the Region 4C playoffs to take on Dulles District runner-up Tuscarora (9-1) at 7 p.m on Friday. The Warriors, who finished in a three-way tie for second place in the district were seeded third based on power rankings. Kettle Run finishes 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the district.
Warriors senior linebacker Payne Bauer — who had 13 tackles (4.5 for loss) and two sacks — said it will be nice to go into the playoffs with one of the players they were counting on to play a big role this year.
"He's pretty good at covering, and I guess he's pretty fast, too," said Bauer while looking at Kim. "He's like a ninja."
Bauer and Kim arrived at Kettle Run kicker William Landis at practically the same time with 26 seconds left in the first half to block Landis' 40-yard field goal attempt when the score was 7-7. Kim ran around the left edge on that play.
In the fourth quarter, Kim said his teammates created a hole for him to allow him to deflect Andrew Piercy's punt from the Kettle Run 30.
After the ball bounced out of bounds, Lane took a handoff on the next play and burst through the left side. Lane juked a defender at the 15 and bounced toward the left sideline, and he took the ball in the rest of way untouched to put the Warriors up 20-7. Jack Hendren's third extra point of the night made it 21-7.
"[Kim's] got a knack for making plays," Hall said. "He's a really gritty kid. The fact that he got back this season is a real credit to him, because he went through a lot of rehab. He adds another dimension to our defense and our team."
After earning a starting position for the first time in the preseason, Kim said it was definitely wasn't easy having to miss as much time as he did.
"The isolation was definitely the hardest part," Kim said. "You're there [with the team], but you're not really there. It sucks."
All that misery ended on Friday. He not only got to make an impact on special teams, but Kim (two tackles) also played an integral role in a Sherando defense that stood tall every time it needed to after Kettle Run's surprisingly easy first drive.
The Cougars covered 70 yards in six just plays to go up 7-0 with 8:53 left on the first quarter clock after taking the opening kickoff. Brandon Strickland (eight carries for 50 yards) capped the drive with a six-yard burst up the middle.
Sherando answered with an 11-play, 67-yard drive that was capped by Lane's nine-yard run up the middle to make it 7-7.
The first play of the next drive saw Darian Lambert (17 carries for 143 yards) blast up the middle for a 67-yard run before he was finally dragged down at the Sherando 9-yard line.
Three running plays netted two yards, then the Cougars tried a reverse on fourth down. The ball was pitched back to Garrett Trimble, who was running left to right.
The Warriors defended it well though. Quarterback Elijah Chumley was open in the right side of the end zone, but with the Sherando defense closing in on Trimble he couldn't get much on the ball as he attempted to throw on the run, and his low pass fell incomplete.
"That was pretty big for our momentum," Bauer said. "I thought they were going to kick a field goal, honestly.
"Our defense was gap sound, today, I thought. On that play, we had never seen it before on film [from Kettle Run]. We never practiced for it. It's the last game of the season for them, so they're going to pull out everything they've got. For not seeing that, I thought we responded pretty well, and we were pretty gap sound on it."
That possession kicked off a string of big Sherando defensive stops.
The Cougars' next possession ended with a Bauer sack of Chumley (3 of 10 for 10 yards) at the Warriors' 39 on fourth-and-7.
Sherando held on third-and-5 before blocking the field goal to end the half.
The Warriors nearly allowed Kettle Run to escape a third-and-23 situation after giving up a 20-yard run to Lambert, but they then stopped him for no gain on the next play to keep their lead at 14-7.
And on Kettle Run's final possession, it appeared as if the Cougars were going to have Jacob Robinson try to throw the ball after catching a pass behind the line of scrimmage, but the Warriors swarmed on him quickly and Robinson was dropped for a nine-yard loss.
The Warriors only permitted 103 yards after Lambert's big run (Kettle Run had 236 yards total). McKinley Dean added 13 tackles (1.5 for loss) and Keli Lawson had five tackles (three for loss) and two sacks.
"We just stepped up," said Kim of the defense. "Everybody just did their role and played better."
Sherando's offense hurt itself with penalties at times. (The Warriors had seven penalties for 78 yards — they've had at least 60 yards in penalties in all but one game and at least 95 yards in four games.)
But Sherando's first possession of the second half, which started from its own 35, was perfect.
With Kettle Run having every reason to feel confident with the score tied 7-7 at the half, quarterback Chacai Campbell (6 of 10 for 56 yards, nine carries for 71 yards) ran for 11 yards on the first play. Lane picked up 19 yards on the second play. Jabril Hayes (four catches. 47 yards) picked up 24 on the third after breaking a tackle near the line of scrimmage after taking a short pass to the left. Then Lane cruised in for a seven-yard TD to make it 14-7 Warriors just 1:22 into the second half.
"We just went into the second half with a fresh new mindset, and we executed well," Lane said.
Friday was just the latest impressive performance in Lane's consistently productive season. He now has 1,579 rushing yards and 25 rushing TDs.
"I thought the second half, we did a good job of responding to the situation that we were in," Hall said. "We just tried to run the ball downhill, and we were successful doing it."
While the Warriors will take the win, Hall made it clear that Sherando can't afford a start like it had Friday in the postseason.
"More than anything, it's about having the right mindset," Hall said. "I don't think we were mentally ready to go from the start. I thought we had a good week of practice. Once we engaged ourselves in the ballgame, good things happened for us.
"Tonight was a learning experience for these guys. They're 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids. As long as they learn from it and apply it moving forward, every game from here on out will be an electric atmosphere."