Skyline evades Brentsville

By Jim Laise – sports@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL – In the end, Skyline needed a first down, and it turned to an unlikely source.

Playing without leading rusher Jerrius Baltimore (14 carries for 71 yards) for a large portion of the second half due to a leg injury, Hawks coach Heath Gilbert gave the ball to little-used backup Brandon Dodson. The 5-foot-7, 136-pound senior squirted through a needed hole for a first down near midfield to ice Skyline’s its second victory of the season against just one loss.

After Dodson (two carries, 12 yards) got the first, Gilbert went to a “victory” formation as the final seconds drifted away. The final was 23-20.

“We needed someone who could carry the ball that we trusted, and we gave it to Dodson,” Gilbert said.

His improbable key play followed a game that was cleanly waged by the winners in the first half, until turnovers thwarted them for the second game in a row.

Quarterback Corban Ruch completed 14 of 23 passes for 165 yards and two scores, but he also threw a pair of picks. Skyline also fumbled once.

The Hawks committed five penalties for 45 yards after going through the first half without a flag.

“Goodness, we still have the turnovers and the penalties, but it was a good game to win,” Gilbert said. “My guys were awfully quiet [in the post-game on-field huddle] and I told them, ‘Gosh, we’re 2-1. Enjoy it.'”

But the Hawks, who turned the ball over four times in a 23-9 loss to Fauquier last week, and their partisan fans at Skyline Stadium could not do so until the game was at its end.

Skyline led 23-6 with 4:25 remaining in the second quarter when things started breaking down against the visiting Tigers (2-1), who had won their first two games for the first time in recent memory.

The Hawks had scored on three straight possessions in the second period for the 17-point advantage, but with 1:42 showing in the half, Ruch was intercepted by Darkizi Simms, who returned the ball for the 32-yard score. The kick was good for a 23-13 score.

“I felt pretty good before the interception because our defense had been playing well, and we had been getting them off the field,” Gilbert said.

A long ball that served much as a punt was intercepted off Ruch to end the first half.

The defense, which held Brentsville to 119 yards after allowing about 150 yards per game in its first two games, exemplified what their coach said afterward.

Skyline fumbled away the ball deep in its own territory to begin the fourth quarter.

Trailing by 10, the Tigers’ offense looked to get put up six points for the second time of the night.

Brentsville had the ball on the Skyline 28-yard line, but two rushes wrought nothing. Skyline defender Hunter Partlowe sacked Tigers quarterback Richard Harryman for a four-yard loss. Then the visiting signal caller (14 attempts, 7 completions, 64 yards, 1 TD) threw incomplete.

The Hawks had held, but not for long.

Brentsville received the ball again and on fourth down, Harryman found Braden Mitchem for a 30-yard bomb that carried to the Hawks’ 4. Harryman found DaShawn Denney for a 4-yard scoring pass. The extra point was good for a 23-20 score with 3:02 showing.

Dodson then ran for a first down on the next possession as time ran out.

“Brandon got the big run,” Gilbert said. “We’ve got a couple of guys we can put in there, and he did the job.

“The defense continues to anchor us and I thought with the exception of a couple of plays, they did well. The one exception was the big catch [by Mitchem]. He caught it down there over one of our best guys.”

The defense has allowed 50 points in three games.

Offensively, Ruch has thrown for 566 yards (48 of 74) with five TDs and as many interceptions this year. The senior has been aided by favorite target Jamal Parker, who caught four passes for 84 yards and a touchdown against Brentsville.

Skyline got on the board with 6:17 showing in the first quarter on an A.J. Dueweke 24-yard field goal. The Hawks added to the total when Baltimore barreled over from 17 yards out followed by the Dueweke extra point.

Eric Jones gave Brentsville its first touchdown on a run of 17 yards, but the point after was blocked.

When Skyline got the ball back, Ruch unloaded on a 56-yard scoring pass to Parker, who had no trouble running away from two defenders. The extra point missed.

Gilbert said he was unsure when Baltimore would return.