Skyline football notebook: Learning quickly could be key for Hawks

Skyline coach Heath Gilbert works with his team during a recent practice. The Hawks will have a young and inexperienced team this season. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline is coming off one of its best seasons, a year in which the Hawks advanced to the second round of the Group 3A playoffs. For this year’s team to duplicate that kind of success its members will have to learn quickly.

The Hawks lost some key players to graduation and will have a young squad.

Skyline football head coach Heath Gilbert said a big key for the team is to tape and learn from practices or scrimmages.

“The more we can do it and watch it, do it and watch it, do it and watch it the better we can be,” Gilbert said. “It’s more work on us getting the kids in and seeing film during the day or after school, but it’s necessary for them to see it.”

He said that one of those areas where the inexperience has shown has been on the offensive line.

“You ask them and they can tell you what their steps are, what their roles are and what their target is, but then the game comes and they’re forgetting, making missed assignments everywhere,” Gilbert said. “So if we can reduce those and give us a chance to be successful that’s going to be a key in making up for inexperience as quickly as possible.”

Numbers game: Skyline’s numbers are down this year. Gilbert said he only has 80 players total for all three teams – freshman, junior varsity and varsity. They only have 48 on the varsity squad, and he said they are usually over 60.

With the numbers being down, he said they’ve had to make some adjustments with practice.

“With practice you got to be careful, but you got to hit, too. There’s no substitute for hitting,” Gilbert said. “The kids are asking us can we please hit more in practice. You try to do your best keeping them safe. We have the tackle wheels – big giant donuts – you roll those (for the kids) to hit moving targets, but it’s not the same as live tackling.”

Gilbert said there was one bright spot to not having as many players.

“There’s no standing around in practices, that’s for sure,” Gilbert said. “It’s constant movement, which I love. Our coaching staff we’re all about active learning time. So that’s a positive.”

Quarterback battle: Skyline juniors Ryan Scott and Colin Smith are in competition for the starting quarterback spot.

Scott was the back-up quarterback last year and threw for 72 yards and two touchdowns. He rallied the Hawks past James Wood last season after starting quarterback Dylan Hamman was injured.

Smith has been a standout basketball player the last two years, but did not play football.

Gilbert said that he feels good about either one as the starter.

“We feel like we have two varsity capable quarterbacks,” Gilbert said. “… I think Ryan has a leg up, of course, because he got to play and he got some varsity games last year and he’s more familiar with the offense and what we’re trying to do. But Colin is doing a real nice job.”

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