Much at stake for Hawks, Dragons in Northwestern District showdown

Luis Garcia

FRONT ROYAL — A lot is at stake for Skyline when it hosts William Monroe tonight.

The Hawks and the Dragons will both be battling for a playoff berth  in the Northwestern District contest at 7 p.m.

“Everyone in our district has to feel the same way,” head coach Heath Gilbert said. “Culpeper I think has won both of their (district) games and everyone else has one loss or so. Everyone is bidding for a spot and everyone is still alive. So these games are so big — we have three left. We have a little four-for-four theme going on right now in our locker room. So step one was last week (a win over Manassas Park) and we have to get this next step.”

The Hawks are tied for sixth in the Region 3B playoffs. William Monroe is tied for ninth. The top eight make the playoffs.

Tonight’s game is also Skyline’s homecoming and Gilbert said that should serve as extra motivation for his team.

“As a senior you reflect back on your time as a football player. You remember your homecoming game and you remember your senior night game,” Gilbert said. “So we have those games coming up, and it is the first step. And we want to do everything we can to make sure our seniors, when they come back to homecoming, they remember this and they got a victory. So it’s really important to us.”

The Hawks will certainly be challenged by the Dragons. Gilbert said that William Monroe has a solid running game.

“They have a few running backs that can do some things led by (Jaekwon Wayne) for them and we have to tackle well,” Gilbert said “We have to get off blocks and our guys can do it if they’re willing to stay consistent and execute the run stunts when they come. Or when you have to win your gap and play technique, you have to do it correctly. Everyone that’s out there playing has shown they can do that. They just got to be disciplined and willing to see all your keys and make sure that happens.”

Gilbert said he was very happy with the way the defense stopped the run against Manassas Park. The Hawks held the Cougars to less than 100 yards rushing in a 37-12 victory.

The Dragons (2-5) will be looking to slow down Skyline’s run game. Gilbert said that the Dragons typically like to load the box and play man-to-man coverage on the wide receivers.

This could open things up for Skyline’s passing game.

“(Skyline quarterback) Ryan (Scott) is a really good football player and we got some receivers that can catch the ball and it comes down to executing,” Gilbert said. “You have to run the right route, the right depth or we don’t have enough time because they’re going to send more guys than we have. We have to be on point.”

The Hawks (3-4) are trying to get back to .500 and improve their place in the playoff race.

Skyline senior wide receiver Luis Garcia said he believes the Hawks can finish the season strong.

“When I first saw our team this year, I thought we were going to be small and we are even smaller now (due to injuries),” Garcia said. “But I still believe in our team. I honestly thought we probably could have went 8-2 this season, but of course it’s not going to happen now. But I still believe we can go 6-4. We just have to take it one game at a time. It’s about who wants it more when you’re going out on the field.”