Touchdown pass in final seconds lifts Hawks to win

Skyline's Brad Halsey looks for running room during the first quarter of their playoff game Friday night against Culpeper in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Marcus Burke knew he had to make the catch.

With the game on the line, the Skyline senior hauled in a short pass from quarterback Dylan Hamman for the game-winning touchdown with 3.7 seconds left. The score gave the Hawks a thrilling 24-21 victory over Culpeper in the first round of the Group 3A playoffs on Friday night.

“I was worried I wasn’t going to bring it down,” Burke said. “I don’t have the best hands. I’m really glad that I got. It was just a great feeling.”

The Blue Devils took a 21-17 lead with 1:10 left in the game on a 1-yard touchdown run by Eli Marks.

With little time left, the Hawks remained poised. Hamman completed passes of 4, 10 and 10 yards to move the ball to the Culpeper 36 with 24 seconds left.

Skyline's Jay Roy goes down after a hit from a Culpeper defender during first half action Friday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Skyline coach Heath Gilbert noticed that Culpeper only had four players in the box, expecting the Hawks to pass the ball deep.

Skyline running back Brad Halsey ran 35 yards on the next play to move the ball to the Culpeper 1-yard line with 12 seconds left.

“Time’s ticking down I knew I had to either get out of bounds or score,” Halsey said. “I tried to score. I was a little worried. But I didn’t let it get to me, because if you think about it more then you start to get nervous and you start to mess up.”

An incomplete pass took the time down to eight seconds. Hamman then threw the 1-yard touchdown pass to Burke in the corner of the end zone.

“It’s our two-point conversion play,” Burke said. “I just got a nice set-up from my boy Brandon Wells and then Dylan (Hamman) just kept it right there on the money – perfect. The defender couldn’t do anything. It was a nice play.”

Skyline's Brad Halsey outruns Culpeper's JJ Washington to score on this 77 yard run during the second quarter last night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I was rolling out. I saw him open and I just threw it,” Hamman said.

Both teams struggled with the passing game, which is usually their strong suit.

Culpeper quarterback Hunter Crim has thrown for over 2,000 yards this season, but had only two completions against the Hawks.

One of those completions came with Skyline clinging to a 17-14 lead. Crim connected with Tristen Mullen for 48 yards to the Skyline 26-yard line in the fourth quarter. On the next play Burke had the second of his two interceptions, this one in the end zone defending Marks.

“The quarterback signaled to the receiver. It was just one-on-one,” Burke said. “I knew he was going to end up throwing it up. That’s their guy – he’s Conference 28 Player of the Year – so he’s good. I just had a step on him, and he started running into me. He kind of brought me down a little bit, but I was able to bring it down. It was pretty nice.”

Skyline quarterback Dylan Hamman scrambles for yardage as he escapes the grasp of Culpeper's Beau Jeffries during playoff action Friday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Culpeper took the lead in the first half on a six-play drive. They went 76 yards, with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Crim to J.J. Washington with 7:19 left in the first half.

On the ensuing drive, Halsey scored on a 77-yard run to tie the game with 6:21 left in the first half.

The Hawks scored on a six-play drive at the end of the first half. Halsey took a screen pass from Hamman and went 35 yards to the Culpeper 3-yard line.

However, the Hawks couldn’t get it into the end zone and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by A.J. Dueweke with 1.4 seconds left in the half.

“The team stuck together,” Gilbert said. “It’s tough. They scored late, it doesn’t look good, the kids didn’t give up. They were ready to play, and we were able to take advantage of some situations.”

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

Skyline's Brad Halsey is brought down after completing this first quarter pass play during their playoff game Friday night against Culpeper in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hawks 24, Blue Devils 21
Culpeper 0 7 0 14–21
Skyline 0 10 0 14–24
Second quarter
C: Washington 15 pass from Crim (Boss kick), 7:19
S: Halsey 77 run (Dueweke kick), 6:21
S: Dueweke 24 FG, :01
Fourth quarter
C: Crim 1 run (Boss kick), 10:23
S: Roy 42 pass from Hamman (Dueweke kick), 7:19
C: Marks 1 run (Boss kick), 1:10
S: Burke 1 pass from Hamman (Dueweke), :03
First downs 11 12
Rushes-yards 44-264 34-223
Passing yards 63 122
Passing 2-10-1-2 10-20-2-0
Penalties-yards 7-64 7-45
Fumbles-lost 3-3 2-0
Punts-Avg. 2-16.0 3-21.3
RUSHING: Culpeper Crim 6-26, Ford 10-37, Marks 14-110, Frye 12-81, Roy 1-(-1), Washington 1-11. Skyline Diggs 12-56, Halsey 13-147, Hamman 6-18, Scott 2-2, Roy 1-0.
PASSING: Culpeper Crim 2-10-63-1-2. Skyline Hamman 9-19-122-2-0.
RECEIVING: Culpeper Washington 1-15, Mullen 1-48. Skyline Diggs 1-(-1), Halsey 3-47, Burke 2-11, Wells 2-17, Roy 2-48.

Culpeper's Eli Marks makes a flying spin move around Skyline's Keith Sanker for a big gain during the second quarter of their playoff game Friday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Skyline's Brad Halsey runs to the sideline during second-quarter action last Friday as Culpeper's Tristen Mullen, right, works to contain him. The Hawks will play at Hopewell on Friday in the second round of the playoffs. Rich Cooley/Daily file