Hawks hunting sharper mental focus as they head to Broadway

Heath Gilbert

FRONT ROYAL – While Skyline’s football team has prepared for its opponents during the first two weeks of the regular season, the Hawks have also been fighting their own internal battles.

Senior running back/defensive back Ty Clingerman and senior two-way lineman Marcel Roy each said on Tuesday evening that Skyline’s lack of focus in the week of practice leading up to last week’s opener contributed to the Hawks’ lopsided loss to Central, and head coach Heath Gilbert said the team was still in a back-and-forth bout to clean that up as Skyline prepared to travel to Broadway for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. contest against the Gobblers.

“The mental part of our team has been a disappointment so far,” Gilbert said on Tuesday. “Once we can get our mental (play) to go along with our physical and emotional play we’re gonna be a good football team. But until that happens we’re our worst enemy right now.”

Skyline was blasted by Central at home last week, falling 43-0 in a game that saw the Falcons pile up nearly 400 yards rushing while limiting the Hawks to less than 100 yards of total offense.

Gilbert said on Tuesday that he thought going in that the Hawks were closer to Central than what they showed in the opener, and Clingerman admitted that Skyline’s players felt they could execute the game plan simply by “going through the motions.” Roy added that the Hawks were “goofing off too much” during the week of practice leading up to the game. The Hawks started film review as early as they could on Monday, Gilbert said, in order to be better prepared for Broadway.

Skyline (0-1) should be plenty familiar with the Gobblers, a team that has served as the Hawks’ Week 2 opponent since 2016. Skyline emerged victorious in both of the teams’ first two meetings, including a 32-22 win over Broadway in Front Royal last season.

If there’s one thing Clingerman, a cornerback, remembers most about Skyline’s games against Broadway, it’s the Gobblers’ penchant for throwing the football. Broadway attempted 32 passes against the Hawks in 2016 and 22 in 2017. In last week’s season opener against Western Albemarle, Gobblers senior quarterback Nick Lohr completed 20 of 34 passes.

Lohr, a lefty who threw for 1,131 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions last season, will be the third different Broadway quarterback Skyline will see in as many meetings (Bryce Suters, who played QB for the Gobblers against Skyline last year, has switched to slot receiver).

Senior running back Brandon Cruz accounted for 181 yards of offense and three rushing touchdowns against Skyline last season, and Gilbert said he’s been impressed with the physicality the Gobblers have shown up front so far in 2018.

“They have a running back who has pretty good quickness. Their defensive line, I like those guys. They throw the ball twice as many times as they run it, so you’ve gotta be on that,” Gilbert said. “Plus if that running back gets any kind of space he’s gonna cause a problem.”

Like Skyline, Broadway (0-1) suffered a loss in its opener in a 17-6 setback at Western, a game in which the Gobblers outgained the Warriors but committed six turnovers, including four Lohr interceptions. Two of those turnovers set up long touchdown runs for Western quarterback Carter Shifflett, and Skyline did similar damage to Broadway’s defense on big plays in last season’s meeting, scoring all five of its touchdowns on plays of 10 yards or more.

Those big plays were few for Skyline against Central last week, as the Hawks finished the game with just 91 yards of offense. Senior receiver LT Barber accounted for most of that production, catching three passes for 67 yards.

“We’ve (can’t) look at anybody else but ourselves and make sure we can run our assignments correctly,” Gilbert said. “Even last week when we were able to create some space, we were able to create some good running lanes with LT, so hopefully we can get our skills the ball and let them do some work and we can do a little bit better blocking up front. We did block a few plays nice, consistently through the night, but other plays we were just having some mistakes.”

Skyline had only 12 yards rushing in last week’s loss.

“We’ve gotta be a little tougher,” Clingerman said. “We’ve gotta focus and we’ve gotta make our blocks. I think we’ve just gotta focus on the game and we’ve gotta attack and we can’t be so laid back.”

The Hawks have bounced back from a season-opening loss to Central with a win over Broadway in each of the past two seasons, and Skyline would certainly like to do so again tonight while showing a sharper mental focus.

“(It would be) big, real big,” Roy said of the prospect of picking up a win. “We’ve gotta just come out and keep hitting in the mouth, keep going, keep going, don’t stop until the game’s over.”