By Robert Edmonds - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline hosted Loudoun Valley in the opening week of the Region II high school football playoffs. The game was only the Hawks second playoff appearance in the school's history and the first time they have held a home game in the postseason.
If the performance by Skyline on Friday night was any indication, this game may be the first of many home playoff games. From start to finish, the Hawks controlled the game against the Vikings dominating on both sides of the ball rolling to a 43-6 victory.
"Last week we were a little disappointed on offense," Hawks coach Heath Gilbert said. "We wanted to establish the line early on and get back in a groove, and we were able to do that and get momentum on our side."
The Vikings started the game with an onside kick that they recovered to take possession, but were forced to punt after a three-and-out by the offense. The Hawks took over at their 20-yard line and quickly went to work.
A 15-yard pass from Aaron Jeremiah to Nick Helmick quickly moved the chains and then Dayvon Haight burst through the line of scrimmage for a 28-yard gain on the next play to move into Loudoun Valley territory.
Jeremiah would take a 20-yard run of his own inside the red zone, but fumbled before being dragged down. Two Loudoun Valley players had a chance to pounce on the loose football, but failed to take possession as the Hawks recovered the fumble at the 17-yard line. Three plays later, Haight sliced through the middle nearly untouched for a 6-yard score putting Skyline on the board first.
Loudoun Valley responded on the ensuing drive, when a personal foul penalty on the Hawks helped the Vikings move the ball to the Hawks 30-yard line. Junior Brandon Grayson sprinted from 30-yards out for a touchdown but a missed extra point left the Hawks with a 7-6 advantage.
When the Hawks took possession again they continued to effectively move the ball into Vikings territory. On fourth-and-one at the 22-yard line, Jeremiah ran for a gain of three to keep the offense on the field. The establishment of the run game allowed the Hawks to open up the offense at times with Jeremiah at quarterback. On third-and-goal, the quarterback moved to his left and found Haight on an out route in the end zone for a score to extend the Hawks' lead.
"The defense bailed us out last week, and we knew we had to come out and step up tonight," Jeremiah said of his offense. "We wanted to come out and put points on the board and we did exactly what we wanted to."
An interception by Hawks linebacker Zack Blair ended the next Vikings possession and set the Hawks up in striking distance as they took over on their opponents' side of the field. Haight would soon score his third touchdown of the game with a 7-yard run capping the first three possessions for the Hawks finding the end zone.
"We came in to tonight with a great game plan and we were able to execute very well," Haight said. "We are a run team first and our line opened up some big holes that allowed us to run the ball very well."
Trailing by two scores, the Vikings hoped to trim the margin as they put together a drive with halftime quickly approaching. Led by the running of Andrew Cordani, who gained 43 yards on the drive, the Vikings quickly found themselves in a goal-to-go situation. A pair of short runs set up the Vikings with a third down from the 2-yard line, but when Grayson took the ball on the play, he was blown up in the backfield by Blair forcing the Vikings into a precarious position.
Loudoun Valley coach Danny McGrath decided to go for it and when his quarterback Sully Warner threw a pass into the end zone on fourth down, Haight was there for the interception to end the drive and keep the Vikings from adding points giving Skyline a 22-6 lead at the break.
"I am proud of our defense and the way they have stepped up recently," Gilbert said. "Last week they started to show what we knew they were capable of and they continued that tonight. We are starting to put our best football team together and this is a great time to be doing it."
The Hawks continued to control the game, scoring on the first possession of the second half and ending four of its first five possessions with touchdowns.
On their next possession, the Vikings changed quarterbacks but found similar results. Senior Neill Frazier's first pass was picked off by Haight and returned 65 yards for a score, giving him four touchdowns on the night, and all but ending any chances of Loudoun Valley coming away with a win.
"It just seemed like the ball kept finding my hands," Haight said with a laugh. "It felt great to make the plays I did tonight, and help contribute too, on both sides of the ball."
With the No. 1 seed the Hawks will find themselves at home again next week where they have yet to lose this season. This time they will be faced with an even more difficult matchup when they square off against Kettle Run.
"We can celebrate tonight, but after that it's over," Jeremiah said. "We have to come back and get ready for Kettle Run. They are a good team, and tough, and we know we have to be prepared and ready to go again next Friday."