Rutherford helps Hawks hold off Rams
FRONT ROYAL — Matt Rutherford knew he had to step up on Friday night and he did — on both sides of the ball.
The Skyline senior had a big night in the Hawks’ 28-26 win over Strasburg. As a wide receiver, a role Rutherford usually doesn’t have to play, he made some big catches. On defense Rutherford knocked down the potential game-tying pass in the final minute of the game.
“I haven’t played receiver in the past couple games very much, but a couple guys have been out,” Rutherford said. “So I had to step up. And I worked hard in practice. And then our quarterback (Ryan Scott) can make plays. So it just paid off.”
Rutherford started at wide receiver in place of Trenton King, the area’s leading receiver, who was out due to injury. Rutherford finished the game with six receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown.
“He loves defense, but I told him he had to be an offensive player this week,” Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. “And he embraced the challenge and he did well.”
But it was on defense where Rutherford came up with one of the biggest plays of the game. After Strasburg had scored a touchdown to cut the Skyline lead to 28-26, Rutherford knocked down a pass by Rams’ quarterback Chase Hart on the two-point conversion attempt with 1:41 left in the game.
“When they scored my adrenaline was really rushing,” Rutherford said. “And it was either they tie it or we win. When we stopped it I was just so happy.”
Rutherford said Skyline cornerback Ty Clingerman helped on the play, and he was very impressed with how Clingerman played throughout the contest.
Skyline’s defense set the tone early in the game. The Hawks had been struggling all season against the run, but against the Rams that changed.
Skyline (2-3) held Strasburg to zero yards defensively in the first half on nine carries.
“We played as a team,” Skyline defensive lineman Marcel Roy said. “We played together the whole game. We played hard.”
While Skyline’s defense was slowing down Strasburg’s run game, the Hawks were moving the ball on offense.
Skyline took a 14-0 halftime with a balanced attack. The Hawks had 125 yards passing in the first half and 123 yards rushing.
Skyline running back Quentin Diggs finished the game with 125 yards rushing on 26 carries and two touchdowns.
Diggs suffered an injury three weeks ago against James Wood and Friday was his first game back. Gilbert said it was great having him back, especially with Skyline senior running back Tucker Fortney sidelined with an injury.
“Q’s (Diggs is) tough,” Gilbert said. “To get him back this week when we had Tucker (Fortney) down — that was great for our run game.”
The Rams (2-3) were able to turn things around in the second half.
Hart, who started and played the whole game at quarterback for the first time this season, began to have some success in the passing game. He completed two passes on Strasburg’s eight-play 80-yard drive for 30 yards.
The passes helped open up Strasburg’s run game, and Austin Miller’s 9-yard touchdown run with 4:42 left in the third quarter cut the lead to 14-6.
“I think that was something we were able to do once we started hitting some of those pass plays,” Strasburg coach Mark Roller said of his running game. “They did a good job with us, especially early on when they didn’t allow us to run when we were trying to run inside there.”
The Hawks came right back with a nine-play, 87-yard drive. Scott threw a 46-yard pass to Rutherford, which set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Clingerman with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
Strasburg’s Trevor Sager took the ensuing kickoff 70 yards and a two-point conversion run by Hart cut the lead to 21-14 with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
“I’m pleased with our effort (Friday),” Roller said. “We didn’t give up, and we could have gave up and we didn’t. I told our guys that we’re getting close to getting over the edge. And we just need to start learning how to finish. And once we do that things will turn around.”
The Rams had a chance to take the lead on their next possession. Facing a fourth-and-10, Hart connected with Miller for 28 yards to the Skyline 8-yard line. Two plays later Miller scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 21-20 with 5:34 left.
Roy sacked Hart on the two-point conversion try to keep a 21-20 lead.
“I saw him go and then I saw him stop,” Roy said. “And I just blew up the offensive lineman and I just came (at Hart). It felt great for my team, my teammates. We came to play (Friday).”
On Strasburg’s next possession the Rams went for it fourth-and-5 from the Strasburg 21, but Hart’s pass was incomplete. Two plays later, Diggs scored on a 15-yard run to put the Hawks up 28-20 with 3:22 left in the game.
The Rams mounted one more drive to try to tie the game. Facing a fourth-and-8 from Skyline 45-yard line, Hart connected with Brody Tomblin on a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 28-26. Setting up another failed two-point conversion attempt.
Hart was 12-for-29 passing for 172 yards and one touchdown for Strasburg.
Scott was 18-for-28 passing for 256 yards and two touchdowns for the Hawks. Skyline’s Louis Garcia had six receptions for 82 yards, and also ran the ball five times for 78 yards.
The Hawks were coming off a tough loss to Handley two weeks ago, and Scott said the win over the Rams was exactly what they needed.
“This is a big momentum booster for our team,” Scott said. “We really needed this going into our district games. It helped us so much, boost our confidence. It’s a big win.”