Sherando, James Wood set to clash in season opener

Aug 23, 2018
WINCHESTER — After making the state semifinals in 2017, the Sherando football team is understandably intent on playing for a state championship in 2018 given that most of its starters are back.
Every team the Warriors play this year is going to be very much aware of that, and Sherando coach Bill Hall knows his team is going to get the best his opponents have to offer as a result.
Sherando travels to Frederick County rival James Wood for the season and Class 4 Northwestern District opener at 7 p.m. tonight at the Colonels’ Jerry L. Kelican Stadium.
Sherando set the tone for last year’s stellar 11-3 season with a 58-8 win in the season opener at Arrowhead Stadium. It’s a satisfying memory to have, but it won’t mean anything tonight.
“From a mental standpoint, both teams are working for a shot at the title,” Hall said. “Anytime you can beat Sherando and knock Sherando off, that’s a title [for the other team]. Obviously, [James Wood] is going to be keyed up. I’m sure they will have had a great week of practice to knock us off.
“With us, how do we practice every day in order to have a shot at the title that we’re trying to achieve long-term? In order to do that, we have to make sure we focus on the process to being successful — how we practice, the mental approach we have in practice, our focus, and how we execute on Friday and the way that we compete on Friday night.”
The manner in which the Warriors competed against James Wood last year was nothing short of phenomenal.
Senior running back T.J. Washington’s 97-yard kickoff return to open the game set the tone for a first half in which the Warriors jumped out to a 51-0 lead. Sherando held James Wood to minus-36 yards in the first half. The Colonels’ only points of the game came on an 82-yard kickoff return by William Crowder and a two-point conversion.
Washington scored six touchdowns total, recording the other five on the ground, and had 92 yards on 18 carries. Senior quarterback Hunter Entsmimger completed 10 of 11 passes for 122 yards, and Sherando finished with a yard edge of 311-11.
Washington went on to finish the year with 1,545 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing and 611 yards and 11 TDs receiving, while Entsminger completed 164 of 238 passes, 2,736 yards, 33 TDs and six interceptions.
Last year was James Wood’s first under head coach Ryan Morgan, and the Colonels went 2-8.
He feels this year’s squad is physically stronger than last year and has a better grasp of the team’s schemes, and the hope is that those things will help them against a team like Sherando.
The Warriors controlled the line of scrimmage with their strength, and at times had the Colonels on their heels with their use of tempo.
“We want to match their physicality,” Morgan said. “[Sherando’s] always strong and big and physical. Last year they were firing off the ball, and we were slow off the ball offensively and defensively. They just play fast and are very disciplined, and we just need to get to that point where we can play as fast, get lined up as quickly.
“We’re just trying to reemphasize things, try to simply, and make sure they’re not thinking too much.”
Being on the same page will be critical against Sherando’s defense, which caused James Wood problems with its blitzing last year.
“Protection has been pretty good in the first couple of scrimmages,” Morgan said. “We’ll have five [players] blocking right and we might have one guy misstep. That’s something we’ve got to correct, but last year we might have three guys taking the wrong step and we weren’t as [physically] strong.”
Given James Wood’s offensive struggles against Sherando last year, the play of quarterback Carson Hoberg could be key. Hoberg completed 32 of 79 passes for 370 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions last year while splitting time with Mike Zebarth.
“He’s been throwing the ball really well the last couple of weeks,” Morgan said. “He’s done a good job of getting the ball where it needs to. I think he’s improved significantly. Things have slowed down. He knows where the offense works instead of having to think all the time on the field. It’s more reactionary at this point.”
James Wood’s running attack is led by Crowder, who rushed for 346 yards and five touchdowns on 48 carries in the Colonels’ wing-T set.
“Being multiple in terms of using both our fronts, what we do with coverages, and mixing up pressures was the key last year, and I think that will be key again this year,” Hall said.
Hall notes that James Wood’s defense has mostly featured an odd front this year compared to an even front last year. He’s noticed the Colonels are using two high safeties this year compared to one last year.
“[The safety structure] just changes where your eyeballs are at,” Hall said. “We just have to do a good job of making sure we’re identifying what they’re doing, and executing at a high level.”
As far as slowing down Sherando, Morgan said the Colonels have to swarm to the ball.
“[Washington’s] fast, and [running back JoJo Doleman] can run over people,” Morgan said. “We’ve got to get 11 people to the football. We can’t plan to attack them one on one, because they’ve got advantages in experience, speed and strength. Hopefully, we can gang tackle.”
Sherando leads the all-time series with James Wood 24-2. All that matters right now is both teams have a clean slate, and they can’t wait to get after it.
“Our focus this week is learn your plays, do your job and be physical,” James Wood senior linemen Chance Grove said. “[Sherando is] a tough team, and they’re going to come out and hit you in the mouth. We’ve got to do the same thing.”
“We want to set a tone from the very beginning,” Washington said. “It’s a long way to get through the season, and each game you’ve got to take things step by step.”