Cross-town rematch: Hawks, Wildcats ready for playoff showdown

Skyline's Tucker Fortney stops Warren County's Ronnie Dodson up high during second quarter action last week. The two meet tonight, for the second straight week, in the first round of the Region 3B playoffs. Warren County won last week's game, 22-21. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — For the second time in two weeks, cross-town rivals Skyline and Warren County will meet — this time the season is on the line.

Seventh-seeded Skyline will play at second-seeded Warren County tonight in the Class 3, Region 3B football quarterfinals at 7 p.m.

“First time something like this has ever happened before,” Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. “So it’s a new experience for everyone. It’s our rival, so that’s obviously an exciting component to the game this week. It should be another exciting game for our fans to come out and watch.”

It’s the first-ever playoff meeting between the two schools. The two teams played last week with Warren County rallying for a 22-21 victory.

The Wildcats (6-4) trailed 14-0 in the first half. They scored the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute of the game.

“That’s just the heart and the enthusiasm, the excitement we have this year,” Warren County coach Brian Bush said of the Wildcats’ rally. “We never think we’re out of it. And we take each play one at a time. If there’s a big play that happens against us, we’ll shake it off, move on to the next one. And we try not to get beat that next play.”

Warren County’s Jacob Good had the touchdown that cut the lead to one in the final minute, and teammate Ronnie Dodson scored on the two-point conversion to give the Wildcats the win.

Good said it was great to be part of the winning drive.

“I told Ronnie (Dodson) before that whole entire drive, that it was going to be me and him,” Good said. “And me and him got us down the field. And then on the last play I told him I was coming behind him — that’s what I did and we scored. And he got the two-point conversion. It was awesome. It was the greatest feeling.”

It was another heartbreaking loss for the Hawks (4-6), who have lost by one-point twice this season and lost one game in overtime.

Gilbert said it was a chance for his team to respond to a tough loss.

“This is a chance for us to maybe redeem ourselves,” Gilbert said. “If you’re a competitor you want this opportunity. …We have to have a short-term memory, move past it and get ready. Because it’s going to come down to who’s going to execute the best. Because I think we showed that we’re pretty equal teams.”

Gilbert said the biggest thing that has hurt his team in close games has been mental mistakes. He said his team has to find a way to make plays in the fourth quarter.

Bush said he expects both teams to make changes and improve from last week’s meeting.

Both teams were able to run the ball last week, and both coaches said it will be important to execute in the run game once again.

Skyline running back Quentin Diggs ran for 137 yards on 26 carries. Bush said that he didn’t feel like his team was ready to stop the powerful Diggs at the start of the game.

“It was just about opening our eyes and being ready,” Bush said. “And I think to start the second half we were sort of ready for that punch.”

Dodson ran for 172 yards on 26 carries for Warren County.

Bush said it’s going to be a tough challenge for his team to beat the Hawks back-to-back weeks.

Good said he’s excited about the opportunity to play Skyline for a second-straight week.

“They say it’s not good to play a team twice in a row, but I’m ready for it,” Good said. “I want to play them twice.”

Skyline senior defensive lineman Cedric Ausberry said that it’s always fun playing Warren County.

“It’s extra motivation,” Ausberry said. “You want to beat Warren County. As a team when you look at the schedule you always want to beat them. You have to get that game.”

Six of the last eight meetings between the two teams have been decided by three points or less.

Both coaches said the key to the game will be limiting  mental mistakes. Bush said the game should be as good as the one last week.

“Coach Gilbert is over there I’m sure getting his guys ready, as I know he’ll have his guys ready. And we’ve got to make sure we’re ready,” Bush said. “It should be a fun, exciting battle in Front Royal again for sure — there’s no doubt about that. Last Friday was one thing, but (today) should be a little bit more exciting.”