By Robert Edmonds - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- The high school football season kicked off Friday night with a bang for the Skyline Hawks when they traveled to face the Rams of Strasburg. An early defensive battle quickly got out of hand as the Hawks won their opener 28-0.
Running their patented single-wing offense, the Hawks found difficulty early on with their running attack against a stingy Rams defense. With multiple ball carriers sharing the load, the Rams held their own on defense as they burst off the line and quickly filled the gaps to limit Skyline's yardage.
"Our defense played with a lot of heart," Strasburg coach Mark Roller said. "We played really well, but we are not as deep as they are. We started getting tired late and it began to show."
The lack of gains on the ground may have slowed down Skyline for a bit, but it didn't take long for Skyline coach Heath Gilbert to go to the air attack, and first-year quarterback Derek Helsley delivered. Although Helsley spread the ball around to several different receivers, he may have found an early season favorite in Eli McEathron.
"We struggled at the beginning with the running game a little bit," Helsley said. "The Strasburg defense was playing very well but going to the air worked out well. Eli especially made some big plays for us."
McEathron proved to be extremely reliable as he caught anything that came near him, including two receptions for touchdowns. The first came as the first half was nearing a close. Already leading 7-0, the Hawks hoped to extend their lead as they ran a hurry-up offense.
"First, I have to give props to the O-line for giving Derek [Helsley] time to throw the ball," McEathron said. "I was just trying to find the open zone in the defense tonight. It was positive for our offense because it shows that we can rely on our receivers if we need to."
Helsley dropped back to pass and found McEathron for a 28-yard strike to give his team a 14-0 lead with one minute to go in the half. On the night, the senior receiver hauled in seven passes for 112 yards and the two scores.
Despite their success, Skyline managed to have three touchdowns called back due to holding penalties, causing the final score to be somewhat deceptive. The first came on a 75-yard interception returned for a score by Ben Schurtz. A defensive holding play would bring the ball back deep in their own territory and the Hawks failed to score on the drive.
Shortly after, a pair of touchdown runs by Jonta Baltimore and Kareem Caison were negated to offensive holding calls. Skyline did capitalize on the latter of the two calls. Baltimore took a handoff around the left side and scampered into the end zone for the game's first score.
While the Hawks offense lit up the scoreboard, their defense almost shut down the Rams offensive attack. The Rams offense was held to less than 100 yards of total offense.
"Our defensive line and backs played really good tonight," Ty Helmick said. "We played as a total team. It was 11 players to the ball all night."
While the two teams were on opposite ends of the spectrum to open their seasons, both plan to use the night's matchup as a building block to a season that has only just begun.
"I felt like our guys up front were the strength of our team," Gilbert said. "I am really proud of our defensive line and Derek [Helsley] and Eli [McEathron] for stepping up and playing very well tonight. We hurt ourselves with mistakes. We have to get better at discipline and execution. We have a week to work on it before another big game."
"We didn't get enough pressure on the defensive side of the ball and we have to capitalize on opportunities when we have a chance," Roller said. "Those are things we will work on, but I think we came out and played hard against a tough opponent."