Hawks strike early, often in win
By Jim Laise — email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL — On one of those perfect high-school fall Friday nights, Skyline (3-1) did whatever it wanted in the first half, then coasted with back-ups the rest of the way to rout rival Manassas Park 34-7 in non-district football action.
“We wanted to make this week about playing as well as we could in all three phases of the game and we thought we did that [Friday],” Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. “Last week we won [23-20 over Brentsville], but maybe we didn’t feel so good about it. This week was different.”
Leading area passer Corban Ruch completed 5-of-8 passes for 93 yards and four touchdowns, without once giving the ball back to the Cougars (1-2) on a pass attempt.
On the end of two of those balls was No. 1 receiver Jamal Parker, who hauled in two of those passes for 37 yards and two scores. Parker also intercepted a Manassas Park pass and returned a kickoff for 45 yards.
Meanwhile, the defense only let the Cougars inside its territory on just one occasion in the third quarter before Gilbert started substituting liberally.
On special teams, Skyline’s Gerren Butler punted the ball four times for almost a 30-yard average.
“It was just a good night for everybody,” said Parker, who has caught 15 passes for 356 yards and five touchdowns this season. “On defense, we played well, and Corban showed what he could do when the line gives him some time. Four touchdowns — man, that’s something.”
Ruch completed touchdown passes of nine and 18 for yards to Parker; fired a 35-yard run-and-score touchdown pass to Julian Roy and also hit tight end Brandon Walters for a 22-yard touchdown.
The other touchdown belonged to Hawks running back Jerrius Baltimore. He carried 15 times for 132 yards and raced for a score of 17 yards.
Skyline’s kickers were good on every extra point, but one.
Defensively, the Hawks allowed the Cougars 81 yards on the ground and 31 through the air.
The Hawks lost a fumble, but forced their visitors to lose two of the miscues and picked off Cougars quarterback Jonathan Bunner once.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Hawks put up a 27-point spot in the second period.
By the end of the first quarter, Skyline backup tailback Brandon Dodson (four carries, 73 yards) bolted 48 yards to the 27. Ruch, who rushed four times for 22 yards, ripped off 14 to the Manassas Park 9. From there, the senior quarerback found Parker for the scoring pass to begin the second period. The extra point made it 7-0 Skyline with 9:12 remaining in the half.
Parker’s interception set up the Hawks’ second touchdown of the night. The senior wide receiver-corner spotted his team the ball at the visitors’ 24. On third down, Ruch reared back and found Parker alone. It was 14-0 with 6:51 remaining in the half.
Manassas Park’s kickoff return man was met by a group of Hawks, and fumbled the ball back t Skyline. Josh Smeltzer, who also had a pass break-up on defense, recovered the fumble.
On the very next play, Ruch had plenty of time to drill a 35-yard touchdown to Roy. The extra point made it 21-0 with 6:34 showing in the half.
The final touchdown before intermission came by way of Baltimore’s 17-yard run for a 27-0 intermission lead.
In the third quarter, Skyline got on the board for the final time as Ruch completed a 22-yard pass to Walters with 2:54 showing.
Joseal Gutierrez scored Manassas Park’s only touchdown on a 10-yard run in the fourth quarter. Jose Alfaro’s kick was good.
“I felt good about it,” Gilbert said. “We got the win and played everybody. We’ve got to get ready for what’s to come.”