BUNKER HILL, W.Va. — Through the first three games of the season, the Sherando High School football team has seen more than its share of adversity, giving up at least 34 points and losing each contest.
Facing their third straight West Virginia school (and second in a row on the road), the Warriors were just looking for something to go their way Friday night at Musselman.
First-year coach Jake Smith watched his youthful Warriors grow up quite a bit when they held off a furious fourth-quarter rally and behind senior Cam Sullivan’s 238 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 28 carries, Sherando picked up its first win 49-43 over the Applemen.
“Our kids have just done a great job of adjusting each week, taking the things they’re being coached upon and applying those things Friday night,” Smith said. “We played some good teams early. The moral of the story is the first three games we played those teams are all still undefeated. Hats off to them but I think we’re a better team for it now at this point in the season.
“There’s no such thing as a bad win,” he added. “We needed a win and we got a win tonight. I thought our kids played extremely hard. They never quit. They kept battling all night long. It was one of those games back and forth and we came out on the right side.”
Quarterback Dylan Rodeffer’s two-yard touchdown pass to Brady Largent gave the Warriors a 49-30 lead with 10:22 left and it looked as if Sherando might coast to victory.
Things looked even better for the Warriors when Musselman fumbled the ball away on the first play of its next possession setting Sherando up at the Applemen 31. A holding penalty backed the Warriors up and they would end up turning the ball over on downs after only getting to the 30.
Musselman (1-3) drove 70 yards in just six plays, cutting the deficit to 49-37 with 6:56 to play on a six-yard Kobe Hayslette run.
The Applemen recovered the ensuing onsides kick at the Sherando 47 and proceeded to score in just 1:26. James Foy barreled in from eight yards out to make it 49-43 with 5:30 left to play.
With all their timeouts remaining, Musselman kicked away and it paid off in a big way. The Warriors fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, setting the Applemen up at the 25.
Musselman drove to the 5, where it faced third-and-goal. A penalty pushed them back to the 10 and a running play for no gain set the stage for the Warriors’ biggest defensive play of the season.
Filling in at quarterback, Ray Adames (normally a wide receiver) dropped back and avoided a heavy Warriors rush. He scrambled and floated a screen pass towards an open Hayslette who had room to run. But at the last second, Warriors defensive back Gavyn Blye jumped in front of Hayslette and knocked the pass down to give the Warriors the ball back on downs.
“We gave up some big plays early on but we adjusted and got better as the game went on and made the stop when we needed to,” Smith said of his defense. “They did a lot of different things and gave some different looks out of the Wildcat but we were able to adjust.”
Things didn’t start well for the Warriors in the first quarter.
The Warriors tried to catch the Applemen with a quick pass on the first play of the game but Musselman was ready and intercepted the pass, setting up the first score of the game. Adames’ one-yard run capped a four-play drive that made it 8-0.
Sherando, and more precisely Sullivan, owned the rest of the first half. The Warriors scored 28 unanswered points, jumping out to a 28-8 lead with 5:29 left in the half.
On its next possession, Sherando went 72 yards in 16 plays, pulling to within 8-6 on Sullivan’s four-yard run, the first of his three touchdowns.
Sherando’s third drive lasted just one play, a 68-yard sprint for Sullivan putting the Warriors ahead 13-8, a lead they wouldn’t give back.
Facing a third-and-10 on its next possession, Sherando’s quick-strike offense did its thing once again as Rodeffer hit Zach Symons in stride for a 42-yard touchdown and a 20-8 advantage.
A safety, a one-yard score by Blye, and Sullivan’s third score of the half (a 23-yarder) staked the Warriors to a 35-23 halftime lead.
“This feels great, finally got coach the win he deserves,” Sullivan said. “We didn’t doubt ourselves, we were confident in ourselves and we had good momentum. We just stuck with it and got the win.”
The Warriors opened the second half scoring when Rodeffer hit A.J. Santiago in stride for a 42-yard touchdown pass and a 42-23 lead halfway through the third quarter. Rodeffer completed 9 of 18 passes for 162 yards and three scores.
Sherando will host Millbrook next Friday to open Class 4 Northwestern District play.
“I think we’re ready for the rest of the season,” Sullivan said. “I don’t even think words can describe it. This feels great. We’ve had a tough schedule but we finally got a win. We’re finally getting it started. It starts from here.”