On Oct. 11, the Sherando football team lost 20-13 to Liberty to fall to 3-3 as several injured players watched from the sidelines.
Four weeks later, the Warriors' situation is a heck of a lot healthier. Thanks to a three-game winning streak, Sherando (6-3, 4-2 Class 4 Northwestern District) is in the playoffs for the third straight year, and the Warriors have a chance to keep the Barr-Lindon Crimson Apple trophy at their school for the third straight year if Handley beats James Wood on Saturday.
The Warriors — who travel to Kettle Run (1-8, 1-5) for their regular-season finale tonight — have seen their list of injured players dwindle since the Liberty game, but the fortitude they've shown all season has been notable.
For example, the week before linebacker/wide receiver Keli Lawson (scholarship offer from Virginia) played for the first time all year and two weeks before quarterback Chacai Campbell returned from a six-game absence, the Warriors went on the road and dealt Handley its first loss of the year in a game that went to overtime.
"It's just a credit to our kids," Sherando coach Bill Hall said. "Just working hard through the season. We talk a lot about next man up, when someone goes down. We don't have any excuses around here. Our guys do a good job of preparing all year. It's a credit to our kids and our program."
Both Lawson and Campbell are coming off strong performances in last week's 48-14 win over Fauquier. Lawson had six tackles, one sack, one interception and a 16-yard catch and Campbell completed 12 of 18 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown and ran for 113 yards on 15 carries.
"They keep getting better," Hall said. "It's kind of like a new season for them. Their best football is still ahead of them. Both of them work really hard in practice. Both of them want to be great and put in the time to be successful.
"Keli has worked really hard to get back this year, so I'm just happy for him. Chacai has a lot on his plate. We put a lot on the quarterback in terms of decision-making. He brings a different element to our offense in terms of run-pass option. Both of them are doing a great job."
Those two and the rest of the Warriors will take on a Kettle Run team that obviously isn't as strong as the one the Warriors beat 16-14 in last year's Region 4C semifinals. But the Cougars present more of a challenge than their record indicates.
Two weeks ago, Kettle Run shut out Handley in the second half and battled the Judges to the end in a 28-21 loss. Last week, the Cougars earned their first win by beating Culpeper County 28-14.
Kettle Run's biggest strength is its size on the line.
"I don't know if we've played anybody as big, except maybe Martinsburg, and they may be bigger than Martinsburg," Hall said.
The Cougars possess several playmakers on offense as well. Quarterback Elijah Chumley passed for 152 yards and two TDs and rushed 15 times for 58 yards last week and running back Darian Lambert had eight carries for 86 yards and a 31-yard TD.
Wide receiver Jacob Robinson is particularly dangerous. He had an 87-yard touchdown catch last week and against Handley he had nine catches for 109 yards.
"He does a good job in space," Hall said. "It's about playing sound, fundamental football. Anytime you don't do that, people have the opportunity to make plays. We're aware they target him, but you can't overload [coverage] on [Robinson], because that gives up opportunities for other kids."
Sherando will take on a Kettle Run defense that's giving up 30.8 points per game. Darius Lane has 1,381 yards and 22 TDs rushing for a Warrior offense that's averaging 35.6 points and 360.4 yards per game.
"We've got to make sure both our offensive and defensive front do a good job," Hall said. "I thought we were really aggressive on defense last week, so I think that's going to be important. On offense, we've got to be efficient and make sure we're staying on schedule. If we're efficient and can open up the whole playbook, good things happen for us."