By Brian Eller -- firstname.lastname@example.org
NOKESVILLE -- It started out so well for Skyline.
After just two plays from scrimmage, the Hawks held a 7-point lead, and feature running back Cliff Woodard had already rushed for 60 yards.
It seemed like a blowout was possible with only two minutes run off the clock. Then momentum shifted. Fumbles, penalties and struggles on both sides of the ball allowed Brentsville to climb back into the game, even taking a 6-point lead as the first quarter came to a close.
What appeared to be a one-sided matchup quickly became an exciting, back-and-forth contest between the two teams, but in the end it was Skyline that came out on top Thursday, defeating the Tigers, 34-20.
"We hurt ourselves a lot with our turnovers, but you have to give credit to [Brentsville] coach [Dean] Ready and his staff and his kids credit for playing hard," Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. "They played tough. We gave up some big plays in the passing game, but we were able to still fight and claw and keep working and stay together, and I was proud of our kids because they never gave up. They kept putting forth their best effort."
Despite the Hawks' habit of fumbling the football, the offense found success behind a three-pronged rushing attack, with Woodard at the forefront. The senior carried the ball 28 times for 184 yards, including the touchdown on the opening drive. He also scored a defensive touchdown off of an interception late in the fourth quarter, sealing the victory for Skyline.
But while the Hawks' rushing attack couldn't be stopped, the Skyline defense found itself struggling against the Brentsville passing game. Tigers' quarterback Blake Alexander threw for 142 yards, including two first-half touchdown passes, both of which went for more than 30 yards, giving Brentsville the 14-13 lead at halftime.
The game continued to be a back-and-forth contest until the fourth quarter. With Skyline down by 6, running back Kwante Stuart scored on a 10-yard run, giving the Hawks a 1-point lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers fumbled and Skyline recovered deep in Brentsville territory.
One play later, the Hawks were in the end zone again, the second time in less than a minute. Travis Custer ran in from 16 yards, putting the Hawks ahead, 27-20.
"We got some great efforts from all of our backs," Gilbert said. "That touchdown by Travis [Custer], he made a play, ran over a kid and got into the end zone."
Despite scoring two touchdowns in less than a minute, Skyline found itself ahead by only 7 points, as the Hawks had failed to convert the extra point on Custer's touchdown, leaving breathing room for Brentsville.
All hope for a comeback was extinguished on the next series, however, as Woodard intercepted a pass by Alexander and returned it for the touchdown, giving Skyline the eventual 34-20 lead.
"We had a cover-4, and he had a streak," Woodard said about the interception. "And the quarterback, the D-line got some pressure and he threw it a little short. I just caught it and I just started running down the field."
With the win the Hawks improve to 3-0, while the Tigers are still winless on the year at 0-3. For Gilbert, he was pleased with his players' efforts, but even with the win, there's still a lot of room for improvement.
"We told them we're proud of them, but we have to learn to do the little things better," Gilbert said. "Trying to take that next snap. We have a team goal that we want to achieve, but we have to be better practice players and team in order to reach that goal."