Football Preview 2016: Youthful Hawks look to gain experience and victories

Skyline's Quentin Diggs tries to ward off Warren County's Robert Rutherford, left, and his brother Joseph, right, during their game last season in Front Royal. Diggs and the Hawks will host Central on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL — Skyline lost a lot to graduation last year, but the Hawks still have some solid pieces returning, which could lead to another successful season.

Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said that his young team will need to learn and just keep improving as the season goes on. He said that with the players lost it presents opportunities for other players to step up.

“With the position battles, we have a lot of kids that left, a lot of skilled guys that are gone and that creates new opportunities for young guys,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said that either Ryan Scott, who played in a back-up role last year, or Colin Smith will be the quarterback. Smith, a junior, did not play his first two years of high school. Scott, also a junior, threw for 80 yards last year including two touchdowns. He led the Hawks to a come-from-behind win against James Wood after starter Dylan Hamman was injured.

One of the strong spots for the Hawks could be at running back where the Hawks should have some depth.

Juniors Quentin Diggs, Tucker Fortney and Kyle McHugh will be leading the way in the running game.

“There’s talent there. They each bring something different to the table,” Gilbert said. “(Diggs) has that nice combination of speed. He’s doing some things I haven’t seen him do before with using hesitation and quick moves that he’s throwing out there. Tucker (Fortney) is a bigger back with some speed. So he brings that power to the game and then Kyle he’s more speed. …So we have a versatile group there. We’ve got a couple fullbacks that will bang it up there and lead for us and run some ISO’s and be the blockers for us if we need to.”

Senior Aaron Tasker returns to lead the way for the receivers. Last year Tasker had 35 receptions for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Gilbert said that Trenton King, Steven Timbers, Louie Garcia, Bailey Smeltzer and Matt Rutherford will also be factors at wide receiver.

One of the areas where the Hawks have some inexperience is the offensive line. Senior Max Meador will be leading the way as the only returning starter.

“He’s been playing tough for us on both sides of the ball,” Gilbert said. “He’s definitely talented. He went to a JMU prospect camp and he did some good things. They liked what they saw in him. So he’s a top player in the trenches for sure.”

Gilbert said Cedric Ausberry, Marcel Roy, Brandon Pyle and Stephen Leach are also expected to start on the offensive line.

Gilbert said that Scott and King were battling it out for the punting and kicking duties.

The 6-foot-4 250-pound Meador will also be leading the way for the Hawks on the defensive line.

Gilbert said there would be a bunch of guys competing for time on the defensive front, and they will probably rotate guys in to keep them fresh.

“Defensive-wise we’ve always wanted to rotate kids anyway, so we’re definitely hopefully going to find a rotation that we can do that with,” Gilbert said.

At the inside linebacker spots Gilbert said seniors Seth Gillespy and Matt Hartzell and juniors Fortney and Justin Jenkins were battling for those spots.

Gilbert said that Diggs will be playing at outside linebacker with Scott backing him up.

Tasker, King, McHugh, Garcia and Brad Murray will be seeing playing time at the cornerback spots. Timbers and Smeltzer will be seeing time at safety.

Gilbert said that Smith and Rutherford are battling it out in what Gilbert called the toughest position on the team — rover or the weakside safety.

“You have to be that run defender plus you have to be have cornerback cover skills,” Gilbert said. “You have to make those open field tackles and those guys are trying hard, and trying their best and they’re embracing what they need to do.”

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