Ruch improves in second year

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Skyline football coach Heath Gilbert says there is a noticeable difference in the way that junior quarterback Corban Ruch is conducting the Hawks’ offense this fall.

“His ability to recognize different defensive schemes that we want to try to prepare for and take advantage of, he’s really grown in that this year,” Gilbert said after Skyline’s practice Monday. “He’s able to see that and try to take advantage of it, so that’s great.”

Ruch’s tighter grasp on the finer points of reading opposing defenses was on full display in Skyline’s Homecoming win over Washington (W.Va.) last Friday.

Despite having to overcome soggy playing conditions, Ruch, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Oct. 5-11, completed 13 of 21 passes for 210 yards and four touchdowns in the Hawks’ 34-21 win.

“We just played hard the whole game,” Ruch said. “The receivers ran great routes, even though it was a little slick on the field and people were sliding around. They still ran their crisp routes, which really helped them get open and helped me throw the ball around. The line did a good job blocking on that slick field too, so it was just everybody doing a good job.”

Immediately following the game, Gilbert praised Ruch’s ability to dissect what Washington’s defense was planning to do during his pre-snap reads and subsequently calling the appropriate checks at the line of scrimmage.

“It was just the way their safeties were playing, how they would move, deeper coverage or a little bit closer to the line. … It was just reading them and seeing how their safeties were playing,” Ruch said Monday.

Not only did Ruch demonstrate his improved ability to read defenses in last week’s win, but he continued to show off what has become a very potent connection with senior wide receiver Jamal Parker

All four of Ruch’s touchdown passes against the Patriots went to Parker, who caught six passes for 105 yards.

Parker, a first-year starter on offense for Skyline (5-2), has hauled in 10 of Ruch’s 14 touchdown passes this season.

“Jamal was a kid that last year was willing to do the extra work in the summertime before the season to create a rapport with Corban,” Gilbert said. “We didn’t quite see it last year but of course this year it’s been pretty evident, I think.”

Skyline’s offense missed out on prime opportunities for points against Washington in the first quarter, but Ruch and the Hawks got rolling in the second quarter thanks to great field position.

Hawks senior Josh Smeltzer’s first interception of the season set up Skyline at the Patriots’ 37 with nine minutes left in the first half, and Ruch hit Parker on the next play for Skyline’s first touchdown of the night.

Following a failed onside-kick attempt by Washington after it’s game-tying drive, Skyline took over at the 50 and was in the end zone four plays later on Ruch’s 15-yard scoring pass to Parker.

Perhaps Ruch’s most impressive drive came in the final seconds of the first half, when he marched the Hawks 54 yards down the field and into the end zone in just 25 seconds. Ruch completed passes of 12 and 22 yards on the drive before finding Parker for a 20-yard touchdown that gave the Hawks a 21-7 lead with four seconds left in the second quarter.

On the touchdown toss, Ruch was forced to scramble away from pressure and rolled to his left, turning an improvised play into Skyline’s third score of the night.

“He got forced out of the pocket and they made an off-schedule play,” Gilbert said. “The backside guy has a certain route and [Parker] saw that he was scrambling, so he actually just hit his inside foot and turned it into a shake route. … [It was] almost like we called it. But it was great recognition by both of those guys to find each other.”

Ruch’s fourth touchdown pass to Parker gave Skyline a commanding 34-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

Ruch also rushed for 51 yards on nine carries against Washington — mostly on read-option plays — and has now rushed for 180 yards in seven games this season.

“In 2012 [former Hawks quarterback] Aaron Jeremiah was able to run the midline so well and get those big plays on the runs on the keep. [Ruch has] started to bring that in the last couple weeks,” Gilbert said. “He’s really brought that back into the offense, which makes it even more dangerous and I’m really glad to see that, for sure.”

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