By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline has plenty of reasons to be confident coming into tonight's non-district contest with visiting Brentsville.
The Hawks are 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 2009 after posting back-to-back wins over Musselman (W.Va.) and Fauquier. Skyline's offense appears to be in a steady groove after introducing a new scheme last season, and the defense has a renewed sense of pride after holding Fauquier to 192 total yards and nine points last Friday.
The Hawks should expect much of that success to continue tonight against struggling Brentsville, a team mired in a 22-game losing streak. The Tigers (0-3) have been outscored 150-6 in three games this season.
Despite Brentsville's recent track record, Skyline is not taking anything for granted.
"We can't take it easy on them," said Hawks senior quarterback Aaron Jeremiah after practice on Tuesday. "We've got to come out and work just as hard in practice. We have to get better for the week after. We can't take a game off, we just have to keep getting better."
Skyline played perhaps its best defensive game in quite some time last week when it shut down quarterback Colin Diehl and the Fauquier offense. Diehl averaged 167 yards through the air in the first two games of 2012, but the Hawks held him to just 84 yards passing.
Skyline's defense made some big plays in that game, including a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by junior Marcus Turner in the third quarter.
Skyline didn't allow Fauquier into the end zone until about six minutes remained in the game.
"Since [playing against] Western Albemarle in the playoffs three years ago, we've struggled," Gilbert of his defense. "We kind of got exposed in their spread package and how we were defending that, and we've struggled with teams that have done that to us. We really did a good job [Friday] -- I couldn't be more proud of those kids for facing a quarterback like Diehl and doing so well. That's a big monkey we got off our back that I felt like we needed to do."
Seniors Nick Helmick and Zach Blair led the Hawks' defense last Friday as the duo combined for 19 tackles. Blair recorded a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick to go along with his 10 tackles, and Helmick had a pair of sacks.
The combination of Helmick and Blair could be poised for another big game tonight -- last season against Brentsville, the duo combined for 25 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in Skyline's 39-14 win.
The Hawks expect Brentsville to run plays out of the wing-T and double slot formations using a mix of power and option runs.
"We need to work on both sides of the ball this week. We're going to look to get the offense going this week, but the defense needs to keep improving also," said Helmick. "They're going run a wing-T-type look on offense, and we are going to hope to shut that down."
Skyline's offense will look to iron out some of the kinks -- such as penalties and some instances of poor execution -- that kept the Hawks from finishing a few drives last week.
Skyline is a little banged up on offense, with starting right guard Travis Siever out for a few weeks and several other players "dinged up" with leg injuries, according to Gilbert.
Aside from some miscues, the Hawks' offense has put together a successful, balanced attack behind Jeremiah. The senior quarterback has completed 22 of 42 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns this season to go along with 122 yards and two scores on the ground.
Kylmen Breeden has been Jeremiah's favorite target this season, catching nine passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, and Helmick has 105 yards receiving and a pair of scores.
Gilbert doesn't expect to change much on offense tonight against the Tigers.
"We're going to run our game plan," Gilbert said. "We're focusing on ourselves to make sure we're getting better and making sure that we're playing the absolute best technique on both sides of the ball. The only thing we're worried about is getting that 'W' against Brentsville, but we're focusing on ourselves."
One thing that will be different when the Hawks take the field tonight will be Skyline's uniforms. The Hawks will wear green pants for the first time, and plan to wear them in three more games this season, including an all-green look for the Homecoming game on Oct. 5 against Millbrook.