By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
NOKESVILLE -- Skyline's match-up with defending Region II, Division 3 champion Kettle Run on Friday had the potential to be a back-and-forth affair as both teams entered the game with high-powered rushing attacks.
Those who expected such a game left Kettle Run High School vastly disappointed. The host Cougars, best known for their vaunted running game led by senior Josh Tapscott, showcased just how dominating their ground game can be, but it was Kettle Run's defense that stole the show on Friday night.
The Cougars held Skyline to just 36 yards of total offense in a 28-6 Homecoming victory, handing the Hawks their first loss of the season.
"We watched a lot of film and we prepared our kids well," said Kettle Run coach Jeff Lloyd. "To hold that group to [36 yards], that's pretty impressive. We are disappointed that we didn't get the shutout, truthfully. I was proud of my group's effort."
Skyline's best drive of the game -- the game-opening drive -- netted the Hawks 34 yards of offense before the drive stalled after a fake punt attempt was stuffed at Skyline's own 44-yard line.
Skyline (4-1, 1-0 Northwestern) recorded two first downs on that drive -- they finished with three total for the game.
"I thought we looked the best on the first drive," said Hawks coach Heath Gilbert. "We were moving the ball a little bit and we were running, but it got really tough from that point forward. They did a good job crashing hard inside and not allowing us to get to the second level."
Skyline's defense was forced to defend a short field for most of the game due to the Hawks' ineptitude on offense, beginning with Kettle Run's opening drive, which began in Skyline territory.
The Hawks forced the Cougars to punt on that drive, and came up big on an interception by Chaz Rutherford at the Skyline 5-yard line that halted Kettle Run's second possession. Skyline forced three turnovers on the night.
But the Hawks handed the ball right back on their next possession as Kylmen Breeden mishandled a high snap on second down, and the Cougars pounced on the ball at the Skyline 3-yard line.
Kettle Run (5-0) punched it in on a fourth-down run by fullback Josh Wicka from two yards out to put the Cougars on top 7-0 with 11:13 left in the second quarter.
"Our defense got put in a lot of tough spots tonight," said Hawks senior linebacker Zack Blair. "We did our biggest job, which was keeping Tapscott out of the end zone. That was big for us, but they outdid us on the scoreboard and that's all that matters."
Tapscott's streak of 20 consecutive games with a touchdown ended on Friday, but the senior did top 100 yards for the fifth consecutive game. He finished with 114 yards on 23 carries.
Kettle Run quarterback Carlos Vegerano took care of the bulk of the scoring for the Cougars, as he rushed for 70 yards and a pair of scores, and added another touchdown through the air.
Vegerano's first rushing score of the night came on an 8-yard run with 4:25 left in the first half that capped a 61-yard drive for the Cougars. Kettle Run took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
Skyline's lone score came in the third quarter when Blair blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt by Kettle Run. Dayvon Haight snatched the deflected ball and sprinted 78 yards down the sideline untouched to cut the lead to 14-6.
"Chris Grady did a great job of opening the hole for me. I just ran through my gap and got my hands up," Blair said. "We felt good about the play. At that point, were looking to bounce back, but our offense couldn't get anything going."
Kettle Run answered with a 44-yard touchdown strike from Vegerano to David Eldridge early in the fourth quarter to go back up by two scores, and Vegerano's 6-yard scamper with just over a minute to play put Kettle Run up 28-6.
Skyline ran just 14 offensive plays in the second half and had no success in the passing game. Hawks quarterback Aaron Jeremiah was just 3-for-10 for minus-6 yards. Haight led Skyline with 36 yards rushing.
"The biggest thing is to not let one loss turn into two," Gilbert said. "We're playing Millbrook next week, a tough football team. We have to bounce back. This game isn't going to define us. We have to win next week."