Hawks drop heartbreaker to James Wood in OT
FRONT ROYAL – The shifts between the highs and lows were frequent and extreme for Skyline High School’s football team in Friday night’s home game against Northwestern District foe James Wood.
The Hawks opened the game with a 14-0 lead before surrendering 22 unanswered points. On the fringe of losing its grip on the game in the fourth quarter, Skyline caught a couple breaks on special teams, and then put together a clutch drive to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation. The final momentum swing, however, went in favor of James Wood, and the pendulum never swung back.
The Colonels regained the lead in overtime on Mark Cisler’s 2-yard touchdown run, and the Hawks couldn’t find the necessary answer in a 28-22 loss.
Skyline head coach Heath Gilbert would say after the game he thought his team had all the momentum – even after Cisler’s third-down scoring plunge and the botched PAT that kept the Colonels’ lead at 6 points – when the Hawks took over from the James Wood 10-yard line on the second possession of overtime. But a Hawks offense that drove 80 yards on 12 plays to knot the score at the end of the fourth quarter sputtered in the extra frame.
After Skyline quarterback Ryan Scott rushed for a yard on first down, his next three passes fell incomplete. The senior’s fourth-down pass hit junior Ty Clingerman – who had James Wood sophomore safety Luke Esparza in his face – in the chest before falling to the turf in the back-left corner of the end zone.
“We had our offense on the field at the end of the game in overtime and I felt really good about that. I’ll take our chances any time,” said Gilbert, whose team fell to 1-2 with the loss. “We have to score and kick an extra-point to win the game, I mean that’s what you want and I felt like we were gonna be able to get it done. Unfortunately we just missed out on an opportunity.”
James Wood (2-1), which finished with 328 yards of offense, including 288 rushing yards on 51 carries from seven different backs in its pistol wing-T offense, had two chances to put the game away in regulation and couldn’t seal the deal.
Skyline’s first big break came on a bizarre play to start the fourth quarter, when a high snap on a punt attempt from the Hawks’ 26 sailed over Scott’s head and bounded into the end zone. A frantic scramble for the ball ensued, and somehow Skyline senior Kyle McHugh was able to corral the football and fire off an incomplete pass from the end zone to keep James Wood’s lead at 22-14.
The Colonels lost a fumble five plays later, which Clingerman covered up at the Skyline 16, and missed a 38-yard field goal on its next possession with 2:24 to play.
“(A James Wood touchdown) would’ve been a dagger, there’s no question. The field goal would’ve been a dagger,” Gilbert said. “But we were able to dodge some bullets and had an opportunity to win the game.”
The Hawks responded with a determined march down the field to tie the game at 22-all, with Scott rolling right and finding senior Luis Garcia in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass to cap the 80-yard drive with 3.2 seconds remaining. Those two hooked up on an identical play for the tying 2-point conversion, as Garcia dragged his toes along the sideline to complete the catch.
Scott completed 17 of 31 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 74 yards and another score in the loss, marking the third straight game the senior has been the Hawks’ leading rusher. Garcia (78 receiving yards) and King (111 yards) each caught seven passes and a touchdown.
“All those guys are tough, man,” Gilbert said. “We count on those guys to make plays. They competed. They played hard.”
Scott’s 23-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-14 late in the first quarter and his 24-yard scoring toss to King early in the second gave the Hawks a 14-0 lead before James Wood scored three unanswered touchdowns on drives of 58, 66 and 40 yards spanning the second and third quarters.
Trailing 14-8 to start the second half, the Colonels used 12 plays and over six minutes of clock to reach the end zone, taking a 15-14 lead after William Crowder’s (team-high 69 yards) 8-yard touchdown run.
James Wood capitalized following Skyline’s failed fourth-down conversion from its own 40 on its next possession, with Samuel Adkins’ 9-yard touchdown run capping a six-play drive that gave the Colonels an 8-point lead with 1:35 to play in the third quarter.
“Offensively we kept a couple things in our back pocket for the second half,” Colonels first-year head coach Ryan Morgan said. “And we saw some things in the first half, too, that they were reacting to some of our plays where we needed to run some counters and sort of get them to get their linebackers, because they have good linebackers that play downhill and will hit you.”
Skyline’s offense, which finished with 333 yards and was called for a handful of illegal man downfield penalties, took a hit in the first quarter when senior running back Quentin Diggs was carted off the field on the play prior to Scott’s touchdown run. Gilbert said Diggs, who returned to the sideline late in the game with his right foot in a walking boot and on crutches, suffered a sprained ankle.
Diggs had 31 yards on five carries before suffering the injury on a 6-yard reception, and the Hawks couldn’t generate the same rushing success with Tucker Fortney (10 carries, 25 yards), a two-way player who also is Skyline’s starting middle linebacker.
“(Diggs) was a good running back. Their next guy in is tough but not as shifty and not as quick,” said Morgan, whose team held Skyline to 123 yards in the second half. “Also they were doing some things to a couple of the defenses we had put in. We were messing up on some coverages, so we kind of just went back to our base defense and guys did a better job.”
Skyline returns to action on Saturday in a road game at John Handley, another Class 4 Northwestern District opponent that won’t count toward the Hawks’ standing in the Class 3 district race.