Hawks down Patriots

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Skyline’s football team feels it’s in the midst of a three-game stretch that is critical if the Hawks hope to be alive in the Northwestern District race in the second half of the season.

The Hawks started that series of games on a high note last week, and they took a big second step against visiting Washington (W.Va.) Friday night. Skyline junior quarterback Corban Ruch connected with wide receiver Jamal Parker for four touchdown passes, and the Hawks’ defense shut down the Patriots for three quarters en route to a 34-21 victory on Homecoming night.

“It’s a huge win. It’s our second game in our three-game series that we really need to win and it was a great win to keep up the momentum going forward,” Ruch said.

Skyline’s offense rolled up 362 yards in the victory — including 215 yards passing despite the soggy playing conditions — while the Hawks defense held the Patriots to 231 total yards of offense. Washington had minus-13 yards rushing on 19 carries.

The Hawks (5-2) were slow to get going on offense, missing out on points on two different occasions in the first quarter after turning the ball over on downs at the Washington 27 on their first possession of the game and missing a field goal on their second.

But Skyline’s defense gave the team a spark in the second quarter, as Hawks senior Josh Smeltzer snagged an errant pass from Washington quarterback Chase Maccubbin near midfield and returned the ball to the Patriots’ 37-yard line.

Ruch found Parker on the next play for a 37-yard touchdown pass to give Skyline a 7-0 lead with 8:42 left in the second quarter.

“He was running great routes all night long,” said Ruch, who completed 13 of 21 passes for 210 yards and four touchdowns. “The line gave me plenty of time to throw the ball. It was just a combination of the whole team doing everything right.”

Washington took advantage of great field position on the ensuing drive, as a nice kick return on a short kickoff and a Skyline personal foul gave the Patriots the ball at the Hawks’ 38. Washington found the end zone five plays later on a 9-yard pass from Maccubbin to Gavin Maccubbin to tie the game.

The Patriots opted to attempt an onside kick on the following kickoff, but the ball was recovered by Skyline at midfield. The Hawks used a 34-yard run by Jerrius Baltimore to reach Washington’s 16, and Ruch hit Parker for a 15-yard touchdown pass on third-and-9 to give Skyline a 14-7 lead.

“We saw that they played only one high safety, so the middle was vulnerable if you took two receivers into the middle, which is how the second touchdown happened on the peel,” said Parker, who had six catches for 105 yards.

Washington’s aggressiveness would come back to hurt the Patriots one more time in the second quarter, as they opted to go for it on fourth-and-10 from Skyline’s 46 with 30 seconds left in the first half. Chase Maccubbin’s pass attempt fell incomplete, giving Skyline the ball near midfield with 29 seconds left in the half.

Ruch completed passes of 12 and 22 yards to Parker and Aaron Tasker, respectively, to move the ball to Washington’s 20, and the quarterback hit Parker for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 4 seconds left on the clock.

Skyline took a 21-7 lead into halftime.

“They helped us out at the end of the half,” Hawks coach Heath Gilbert said. “Our kids were able to stop that fourth-down conversion. It was good to see that part of the game executed, too — a short-time situation and we didn’t even have to use all of our timeouts. That was good clock management and good execution by the kids.”

Skyline opened the second half with a 58-yard touchdown drive that ended with Baltimore’s 11-yard touchdown run, and the Hawks went 68 yards on just three plays on their second drive of the third quarter as Ruch found Parker for the fourth time for a 9-yard touchdown pass that gave the Hawks a 34-7 lead.

“They did a nice job,” Gilbert said of the Hawks’ offense. “They checked off. [The Patriots] were definitely doing some pressure things that those guys were able to see and take advantage of. We have some built in checks that we were able to execute, so we’re really proud of seeing that maturation of the offense.”

Washington added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Skyline’s second-team defense. Chase Maccubbin hit Kyle Athey for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 8:09 left to play, and Maccubbin threw his third touchdown pass of the game on a 1-yard pass to David Cheezum with 9 seconds left in the game.

Washington, which failed to establish any kind of rushing attack in the loss, was forced to throw the ball 46 times. Chase Maccubbin completed 26 of those 46 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Gavin Maccubbin caught six passes for 72 yards a touchdown, while Athey had seven catches for 70 yards and a score.

“We just kept getting behind in the down and distance and we were forced to throw,” Patriots coach Daryl Hayes said. “We started two sophomore linemen up front and we just got manhandled, couldn’t establish the run. Then obviously when you can’t run, you have to start passing. I think we were out of comfort zone passing it that many times.”

While Gilbert said he was proud of the way the Hawks performed on the field Friday night, things did get heated between the two teams and a Skyline player was ejected for a personal foul after warnings had been issued to both sides in the second half.

“I’m glad they won their Homecoming game, but it’s a little bittersweet, for sure,” Gilbert said. “We want to be a class program and as a whole entire team we didn’t make the choices that I’d like to see. At the same time we need a little help out there from the guys who are in charge of the game. They need to protect our kids.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com