Posted August 27, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Skyline senior to savor final season on gridiron

Skyline's Ben Schurtz
Skyline's Ben Schurtz returns as part of an experienced defensive line that rated among the best uints in the Northwestern District last year. A defensive end, Schurtz is expecting an even better season as a senior. Dennis Grundman/Daily

By Brian Eller - beller@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Sometimes before a game, Ben Schurtz will walk up to teammate Luke Pingley and offer a proposition to his fellow defensive end.

"We go out there and Luke and I will always say something like, "We'll take each other to a steak dinner if one of us can force a fumble," or something like that," Schurtz said. "It's a nice competition between us on the line."

The idea of having a teammate pay for a steak dinner can serve as fuel for guys like Schurtz to end up in opposing teams' backfields, but when it comes down to it, the Skyline senior doesn't even need promises of post-game meals. He already comes prepared with all of the fuel he needs.

"We joke around with all of that stuff," Schurtz will say, "but it's all business when we get out on the field."

Entering his final season with the Hawks, this is Schurtz's final chance to get down to business. Last season, Skyline's defensive front was one of the top units in the Northwestern District, as Schurtz, Pingley and senior Alex Nickens combined for 14.5 sacks. Their presence helped the Hawks into the playoffs, a spot Schurtz says he wants to bring his team back to in 2010.

"We've got big goals this year," Schurtz said. "We especially want to be district champs. But we want to go deep into the playoffs, too. This team's got a lot of potential and a lot of senior leadership."

A big part of that senior leadership comes from Schurtz. After emerging as a key player at the varsity level during his sophomore season, Schurtz earned a starting role last year at the defensive end, joining Pingley and Nickens to form a trio whose chemistry allowed them to exploit opposing offensive lines.

"We've had chemistry the past couple of years because we all played varsity for a couple of years now," Pingley said. "Ben didn't start sophomore year, but he was still a good football player, and we've had that chemistry and we're going to have it this year."

And although it's the sacks and tackles for loss that are recorded in the statistics sheets, Schurtz's abilities on the offensive side of the ball haven't gone unnoticed, either.

Schurtz serves as the team's starting tight end, where in the single wing offense he finds himself creating holes on the line for running backs and occasionally streaking out as a receiving option for the quarterback.

The running plays come more often, Schurtz knows, but that's actually not a problem for the tight end. He likes blocking guys more than catching balls, anyway.

"I love blocking, blocking's my thing," Schurtz said. "Just being able to wash somebody down on the ground is what it's all about it."

Of course, Schurtz knows it's a lot more complicated than that. His job this season will be to create open space for any number of Skyline's speedy running backs, including Travis Custer, Kwuante' Stewart and Jonta Baltimore.

That doesn't mean he won't have his opportunities to pick up receiving yards, however. This season Derek Helsley will assume the quarterback position; Helsley is a teammate Schurtz has been playing alongside since elementary school. Helsley has quarterback experience, but with this season standing as the duo's final chance to leave high school with a championship, Schurtz is ready to be his teammate's No. 1 option in the passing game.

"I know Ben's always going to come up with the ball," Helsley said. "We trust each other and have been playing together a long time, so that'll help. I've been playing with a lot of these guys since we were young."

With the help of that chemistry, Skyline is hoping this is the season the Hawks make a deep run into the postseason. As for Schurtz, it doesn't matter whether he's catching a pass, blocking for his quarterback or trying to chase down an opposing one, that fuel will be there, with or without the potential of a steak dinner.

"That's definitely a unit we have some high expectations for," coach Heath Gilbert said. "Luke, Ben and Alex, they've all been playing together for a while and that chemistry shows not only on the defensive side of the ball, but on the offensive line as well."



    Coach: Heath Gilbert (fourth year, 16-15)
    League: Group AA Northwestern District
    Offense/Defense: Single wing/4-4
    Key returnees: OL/DL Luke Pingley, TE/DL Ben Schurtz, RB/DB Kwaunte' Stewart, RB/DB Kareem Caison, OL/DL Alex Nickens
    Key losses: RB/DB Cliff Woodard, QB/DB Josiah Patrick, RB/LB Dylan Hill, OL/DL Marcus Blair

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