Confidence high for Hawks

Skyline's Luis Garcia runs for yardage as Central's Alex Sibert closes in during their on Aug. 26. Skyline hosts Brentsville at 7 tonight. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Two weeks after falling flat in its season opener, Skyline High School’s football team has a renewed sense of confidence.

That morale boost came in the form of the Hawks’ 45-21 trouncing of Broadway on the road last week, a game in which a young Skyline squad dominated both sides of the ball from the opening kick. It was a win that head coach Heath Gilbert said was “good for everyone” in the Hawks’ program.

“That victory helped them so much,” Gilbert said after practice on Tuesday. “Just the confidence, hearing them make comments about, ‘Man, if we could’ve just played a little bit better against Central we could be 2-0 right now.’ Looking ahead, (the players have) this whole different mindset of their belief in what they’re doing having a victory like that.”

The Hawks (1-1) now ride those good vibes into tonight’s 7 p.m. home matchup against Brentsville hoping for a better showing than they had against the Tigers last season, when Skyline turned the ball over five times in a 27-14 loss in Nokesville.

The Tigers, 1-0 after a 38-20 win over William Monroe last week, are coming off a resurgent year under head coach Ryan Smith in which they reached the playoffs for the first time in 9 seasons.

Gilbert said this year’s Brentsville squad is “senior loaded,” meaning it closely resembles the unit that went 7-5 and, like Skyline, advanced to the second round of the Virginia High School League Group 3A playoffs in 2015.

“They’ve got good numbers and they’ve got their stuff together,” said Gilbert, whose Skyline teams are 7-2 all-time against Brentsville and enjoyed a seven-game winning streak over the Tigers from 2008-2014. “It’s not the Brentsville that you saw three or four years ago when they were on the end of that 40-game losing streak. They’ve stuck with Coach Smith and he and his staff have done a really good job.”

In last week’s season opener, Brentsville’s wishbone offense churned out nearly 350 yards rushing, led by a 160-yard effort from senior Dashawn Denney and a pair of rushing touchdowns from Austin Obermeyer.

Denney, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, was a VHSL second-team all-state selection in 2015.

“Offensively they’re like a machine,” Gilbert said.

“They are sharp with their cuts. It’s a wishbone, misdirection with a trap and off-tackle power, and their offensive line, their feet are quick, they’re moving. It looks really sharp. They do an excellent job. And then they have three running backs that can take it to the house every play. If we don’t play with good technique, we’re not disciplined with our eyes, you start looking in the backfield, the misdirection, (then) we’re gonna be all over the place and we’re gonna be getting gashed.”

Skyline’s defense, which got run over by Central on Aug. 26, limited Broadway to 283 yards last week while forcing seven sacks and three turnovers. The Hawks held the Gobblers to 68 yards rushing (including sack yardage), 59 of which came on the final scoring drive of the night late in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.

“It boosts it up a lot,” said Hawks junior defensive back Matt Rutherford, who had two interceptions in last week’s win. ” First week it wasn’t good at all, but now, since our defense played really well, I think we have our confidence up.”

The Hawks’ offense was equally impressive against Broadway, as Skyline rolled up 587 yards in a balanced attack that featured four total touchdowns from junior quarterback Ryan Scott and 273 total yards from junior running back Tucker Fortney.

Fortney, making his first career start in place of the injured Quentin Diggs – who will return next week against Manassas Park, Gilbert said – carried 20 times for 220 yards and two touchdowns to lead a Skyline run game that churned out 322 yards rushing while averaging 9.8 yards per carry.

Gilbert said Brentsville’s defense has two “fantastic” linemen, and the Skyline coach added that the Tigers have a strong secondary highlighted by senior cornerback Romell Jones, whom Gilbert called an “absolute beast.”

Scott said he expects Brentsville’s defensive line to be very aggressive.

“Our run game has to be good, our pass game has to be good, our o-line has to block. Everything has to go well or else it won’t go well for us,” said Scott, who completed 11 of 15 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns last week. “But I just know with practicing and preparing, it’ll go well.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com