Hawks facing high-powered passing offense in playoffs

Skyline quarterback Dylan Hamman fires a pass during last week's game against Warren County. The Hawks host Culpeper tonight in a first-round playoff game. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline football coach Heath Gilbert wants his program to take another step forward, and on Friday night it will have a chance to do that.

The Hawks have been to the playoffs six times in the school’s short history, but they have only won one playoff game. Skyline will get a chance to add to that number Friday when it hosts Culpeper in the first round of the Group 3A East Region playoffs.

“To be able to host a playoff game is great, exciting for our kids. This is more than just one game for us. It’s a program game,” Gilbert said. “… We don’t want to be the program that gets there and doesn’t do anything. That’s the reputation that we’re staring to develop and that’s not what we want. So we need to flip that around. If we get this victory we will put our home record to 2-2, evened up, and then we can hopefully move forward from there.”

The Hawks have a tough task in front of them against the Blue Devils.

Culpeper is led by senior quarterback Hunter Crim, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards. The 6-foot-2 quarterback has two top targets to throw to in senior Eli Marks and junior Malik Roy.

Marks is averaging more than a 100 yards receiving per game, and was the Conference 28 Offensive Player of the Year.

“It’s going to be a big game for our defense,” Skyline wide receiver/defensive back Jay Roy said. “They like to pass the ball a lot. We got to stop their routes. They do perfect routes. The quarterback can deliver the ball good. We gotta do good in coverage.”

Gilbert said that Crim has a quick release, making it even tougher to get to him.

“They’re talented,” Gilbert said. “We’re going to see one of the best passing games we’ve seen all year. …(Crim) moves well in the pocket. He does a nice job of, if things break down in the pocket, still being able to find that guy off schedule a little bit.”

Skyline has a pretty good passing game as well. Skyline quarterback Dylan Hamman has thrown for 1,774 yards on 141 for 237 passing and 16 touchdowns. He broke the school single-season record last week for passing yards.

Jay Roy has been his top target with 38 receptions, tying a school single-season record, for 477 yards and five touchdowns.

Skyline’s running game could be a key. Brad Halsey has rushed for 552 yards and Quentin Diggs for 240 yards.

“Obviously, any time we can keep a good offense off the field with our offense that can be productive for us,” Gilbert said. “… Being able to, hopefully, win in the trenches would be a huge key for us.”

Having a home game could also be a real plus for the Hawks.

“It’s going to be a pretty good atmosphere,” Skyline senior linebacker Keith Sanker said. “Being at home you got that advantage. You got the home crowd cheering you on. It gets you pumped up.”

The Hawks have had a bit of an up and down season, and Gilbert credited his seniors for leading the way as the season has gone on.

Gilbert said midway through the season the team was at a crossroads as to whether they were going to start practicing better or go through the motions of a losing season.

“Kids like Keith (Sanker), Joe (Pingley), Jay (Roy) and Zach Atkins – our captains – they really took it to heart,” Gilbert said. “They really tried their best to make sure to rally the team, and make sure we started to do things the right way.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com