Interceptions cost Hawks in road loss

By Jim Laise – sports@nvdaily.com

WARRENTON — Football is a quirky game.

Fauquier whipped Skyline Friday night, 23-9. The visiting Hawks ended the game having turned the ball over four times and having been penalized 66 yards.

And yet the Hawks (1-1) had a real chance to at least tie the tussle late and perhaps set up a heart-stirring comeback until an interception sealed their fate.

The Falcons (1-1) picked off two passes in the fourth quarter to thwart Skyline in this non-district game. It could be a while before the two teams face each other again.

“I told my kids I loved them, and I did,” said Skyline coach Heath Gilbert. “We’ve had some great games with them and won some sweet victories. One that stands out down here was one that we won 54-50. I was hoping for the same result [Friday]. It would have been good for us. And yet we made some plays, particularly on defense, to get the ball back when we needed it. So, I can’t fault that.

“This is going to be the last time we play them and it’s been a really good rivalry.”

Skyline quarterback Corban Ruch (26 attempts, 13 completions, 192 yards, three interceptions) found favorite receiver Jamal Parker (four catches, 131 yards, one TD) with a 21-yard screen pass that moved the ball to the Fauquier 29-yard line as time was winding down.

Another play could have gone for a first down or even a score but Ruch, who was forced to put the ball in the air in the final quarter to catch up, failed to see defensive back Briar Thomas.

Thomas intercepted the ball and traversed 71 yards the other way for the sealing touchdown. The point-after was good.

Skyline trailed 16-9 with 3:21 remaining in the game.

Thomas, also a running back, rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown on the offensive side of the ball.

The combination of Ruch-to-Parker had worked for a 77-yard pass and run for the score that had Skyline trailing by just seven points. That time, the junior quarterback, who also rushed for 24 yards, lofted a ball to the speedy wide receiver, who was wide open. Parker easily outran the Falcon defense for a touchdown.

“On the interception, I just didn’t see the guy,” Ruch said. “That’s all. We’ve just got to work harder on all the little things. We’ll do it, and come back stronger. There’s not a whole lot to take from this game.

“On the [touchdown pass to Parker] he was just wide open and all I had to do was get him the ball and he did the rest. The offensive line did a great job.”

The Hawks received the ball again, but this time Louis Heisler made the game-quenching theft. Falcons coach Jamie Carter ran the clock out.

“This wasn’t our first game, but it was our first game at home. That’s the important one,” Carter said.

A week ago, Loudoun County pounded Fauquier 33-0. In Week 1, Skyline drummed cross-town rival Warren County 31-7.

In last week’s game at Leesburg, the Falcons turned the ball over five times. At the same time, Fauquier’s defense allowed only 151 yards against the Raiders, so when Carter predicted his team would make the playoffs, he might have known what he was talking about.

“We just had to eliminate our mistakes. That’s what we did for the most part,” Carter said. “It wasn’t a matter of Xs and Os last week. We just made too many mistakes.”

Fauquier was penalized 42 yards against Skyline and suffered just one turnover.

“We had a slow start with the fumble on the first play and the penalties — it was a lot like last week,” Gilbert said. “We just had too many of them. Two weeks in a row, we had a discussion about execution and then made the penalties. Some of them were just silly.”

After the opening kickoff, on the first offensive play of the game, the Hawks lost the ball to Fauquier’s Joshua Andre who recovered it on the Hawk 20. That led to the first score of the game when quarterback Heisler (11 attempts, eight completions for 35 yards and an interception) carried over from inches out. Kicker Devin Webb added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Fauquier expanded the advantage by 10 points on a 25-yard field goal by Webb with 4:21 showing until half.

On the ensuing series, Ruch and Parker combined for a 21-yard pass which carried to the Falcon 40. The drive stalled and Austin Dueweke followed with a 24-yard field goal of his own. The score was 10-3 with 57.8 seconds showing before intermission.

Nobody scored in the third, but in the fourth quarter, the Fauquier running game got in gear in high humidity.

With Thomas doing most of the work, the Falcons used seven downs to move 88 yards. This drive culminated with a 2-yard scoring bolt by Thomas. The extra point failed. It was 16-3 with 8:56 remaining in the game.

The Hawks scored, but interceptions handed the game to the Falcons.

“They had been working against the other side and I thought they may come to me,” Thomas said. “I saw the ball and just jumped the route.”

Jerrius Baltimore carried for 46 yards for the Hawks.

Skyline held Fauquier to 213 yards of offense. The Hawks accounted for 238 yards when they had the ball.