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Phil Perry/Coal Valley News Sherman High's J.T. Hensley turns the corner on Friday.

SETH — Sherman High used a smothering defense and a powerful rushing attack to defeat Parkersburg Catholic, 44-8 in the opening round of the Class A playoffs at Zontini Field in Seth.

Muddy field conditions proved a tricky proposition for both squads, who rely on strong running games.

During pre-game, Parkersburg Catholic officials questioned the condition of the field but the game began at the scheduled time despite the dispute.

After a three and out by the Crusaders, Sherman took the ball on their own 43 and quickly picked up 9 yards on a J.T. Hensley Keeper and an 8 yard jaunt by Seth Rinchich. Sherman scored when Tommy Harper went 35 yards off-tackle for a dash to pay dirt. Hensley converted the 2-point conversion and Sherman led, 8-0.

After a Catholic three and out, the Tide scored again when Rinchich took the ball on a sweep from Hensley and went 54 yards for a score. The conversion failed and Sherman led 14-0 with 5:29 to go in the first.

Catholic's Xavier Collie handed off to Ty Sturm for a first down on a four-yard dive for their initial first down of the game at 4:13. A tackle for a loss by Hensley from his cornerback position stalled the drive as the Tide defense bent but didn't break.

No. 7 Sherman threatened again on their next possession after runs of 13 and 9 from Harper before a tough 6-yard sweep from Rinchich set up a score in the red zone.

Hensley punched it in from the 3-yard yard line on a keeper and followed it up with another run for the conversion and the Tide took a 22-0 lead with 2:29 left in the first frame.

"That was the best, most inspired first quarter we've played all year," said Sherman coach Michael Showalter. "Our kids respond to adversity and they established that pretty fast tonight."

No. 10 Catholic has relied on a strong running game all season but Jeb Boice and Sturm found little room to run early in the game as the Tide defense was swarming to the ball. The Crusaders had minus-11 rushing yards at halftime.

"We knew they were complaining about the field," said Hensley. "We decided to use that to our advantage and we're used to playing in these conditions when it rains. We just wanted to play football tonight."

On a third and long as the first quarter ended, Catholic saw a bad snap push them back to the 14-yard line and they recovered but had to punt to the Tide as they took over on the their own 49-yard line.

Hensley kicked off the drive with a 13-yard counter play setting up another first down for Sherman. A late hit two plays later pushed the Tide back to the 40. Catholic held their ground and shut Sherman down on the drive forcing a fourth and 14. Hensley slightly overthrew Colton Bowman and the Tide turned the ball over on downs.

On a third and long, Sherman's Dustin Harvey sacked Collie and ended their series with 7:35 to in the opening half.

Sherman (9-1) in the regular season stuck with their veer offensive set with an occasional I-formation offering. On their next opportunity, Hensley fumbled the snap and picked up 20-yards on a busted play, with a pair of spin moves getting him out of trouble before a facemask call was tacked onto the play with 5:42 in the opening half.

"Mother nature got the best of me on that one and we had to try to make something out of nothing and thankfully we did," Hensaley said of the play.

Parkersburg Catholic (9-1) in the regular season had no answer for the three-headed monster of Henley, Harper and Rinchich. Harper finished off the drive with a 24-yard run off-tackle for a score. The conversion failed and Sherman led 28-0 with 5:20 to go in the opening half.

With :50 seconds to go,Parkersburg Catholic didn't give up. They found pay dirt on a 61-yard bomb from Collie to Boice that left Sherman's defensive backfield in the mud after an athletic move broke him for the score. The 2-point conversion was good teams went to halftime with Sherman up, 28-8.

Sherman took the ball at midfield in the second half and Rinchich had a 33-yard scoring run called back after a block in the back. Sherman went for a fourth and four on a Hensley sweep and the Tide got the first down at the 31. Sherman eventually turned the ball over on downs and PC took over on their own 32. Sturm caught a 19-yard pass from Collie to put PC across midfield for the first time in the second half with 2:34 left in the third quarter but on a fourth down conversion attempt, Hensley picked off the pass at the 18-yard line and the Tide began a drive deep in their territiory.

Harper took the handoff on the first play of the drive and went 29 yards into Catholic territory, carrying two defenders on his back before finally going down. One play later, Rinchich caught a pitch from Hensley and reached around the strong side and picked up 17 yards while setting up the Tide inside the 5-yard line before Davy Jarrell punched the ball in from the quarterback slot while a resting Hensley watched from the sidelines. Rinchich converted in the 2-point conversion and Sherman led 36-8 with 10:12 to go.

On the next possession, Clayton Dexter caught a 31-yard laser from Collie but Parkersburg Catholic fumbled at the 35 of Sherman and Colton Bassham recovered for the Tide.

On the very next play, Hensley scored on a read-option where he raced 66 yards down the visitor's sideline for a Tide score. After a 2-point conversion from Harper, Sherman led 44-8 with 9:06 to go and the score stood.

Coach Showalter spoke about his team and their passion.

"Our guys had a great week of practiced and they were inspired and focused," he said. "They were disrespected right out of the gate tonight and they played with class and kept their head."

The Sherman quarterback said that the Tide are ready to move forward.

"This win means a lot to me and our program," Hensley said. "For our coaches and everybody that has worked so hard in the weight room, this is for them. Catholic is a good team but we're not done. We have more work to do."

Sherman will face No. 2 Midland Trail (10-0) next week, who defeated Tucker Co. 14-2 tonight.