Skyline Football Notebook: Tasker getting his shot as Hawks’ starting QB

Skyline head coach Heath Gilbert works with a group of linemen at a recent practice. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Chase Tasker spent the 2017 football season as the backup to Ryan Scott, learning from Skyline’s veteran quarterback and awaiting his turn to take the reins of the Hawks’ offense. Tasker is getting his shot this fall.

The senior enters the 2018 season as Skyline’s starting quarterback, and though Tasker’s varsity experience is limited – Scott, the 2017 Region 3B Offensive Player of the Year last season, rarely left the field during the past two seasons – he’s got the confidence of Hawks head coach Heath Gilbert.

“Chase has always had arm talent but Ryan Scott is a physical beast. Chase paid his dues on JV and last year he was that guy waiting in the wings, and now he’s getting his opportunity,” Gilbert said following Skyline’s scrimmage at home against Luray on Thursday night. “He’s making the most of it. We’re trying to design the offense kind of around what he does well, that’s why we’re using more RPOs (run-pass option) than maybe read-option in years past. It just works with what he does really well.”

If Tasker’s performance on Thursday evening is any indication, Skyline’s offense is in capable hands. In the scrimmage against Luray, which was run under game-like conditions (both teams’ starters played three quarters), Tasker unofficially completed 11 of 17 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

The senior did overshoot open receivers on a couple occasions but he completed seven passes in a row after throwing an incompletion on his first attempt and showed he could complete the deep ball, hitting speedster Caleb Reedy in stride on touchdown passes of 60 and 28 yards.

“Chase did really well,” said Hawks senior receiver L.T. Barber, another electric weapon for Tasker on the outside. “He overthrew a couple, no biggie. His passes were there where they needed to be and he hit most of the ones he was supposed to.”

Gilbert said Tasker, listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, isn’t quite as mobile as Scott was, though he added that Tasker has shown the ability to hurt defenses with his legs in practice. Tasker didn’t do much running on Thursday night but Gilbert said that was partly because Luray defended the read-option differently than the Hawks expected.

In limited action last season, Tasker completed 6 of 15 passes for 67 yards and an interception, all those stats coming in a shutout loss to Handley when he filled in for Scott, who missed most of the game with the flu.

Tasker will make his first varsity start next Friday night at home against Central, and he said over the next week he wants to tighten up his ability to read defenses. Other than that, he seemed content with his progress.

“It’s been pretty good. Learning from Ryan a lot of times and just watching him has helped me learn and become a better quarterback today,” Tasker said, adding that he was happy with his performance in the team’s final tune-up before the regular season.

“Definitely can improve on some things but overall pretty good.”

FILLING THE HOLES: Tasker isn’t the only Hawk stepping into a more prominent role on offense this fall. Skyline lost every single player who posted significant rushing and receiving numbers in 2017, meaning most of the team’s skill position players are playing major roles for the first time.

That’s not to say the Hawks are lacking weapons. Reedy, who broke his femur in the 2017 season opener and missed all of his junior season, is a home-run threat at receiver, as is Barber, who took a wide receiver screen 38 yards for Skyline’s first touchdown in Thursday’s scrimmage.

“We’ve got the roles filled with good players in the places they’re supposed to be in,” said Barber, who caught four passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, the bulk of that production coming on back-to-back wide receiver screens. “Everybody’s making plays.”

Reedy, whom Gilbert said could’ve been the Hawks’ “best skill guy” among a group of veteran receivers last season, made a nice fingertip grab while tiptoeing the sideline near the pylon on his 28-yard touchdown reception.

Senior Ty Clingerman also hauled in a 44-yard reception when Tasker hit him in stride down the seam, and Clingerman split carries with senior Bogdan Ion in the backfield on Thursday night. Barber and Clingerman, the Hawks’ top returning receivers, combined for 13 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown last season.

Gilbert also mentioned junior receiver Anthony Domino and senior tight end Nathan Abel as players who have emerged as other weapons in Skyline’s offense this preseason.

“I feel like we’ve got a lot of new guys stepping up to be starters,” Barber said. “We’ve been coming together. We’ve had a couple mistakes but we figure them out during practice.”

SEEING IMPROVEMENT: Gilbert said Skyline left its first preseason scrimmage against Spotsylvania with mixed feelings, seeing toughness and improvement on the defensive side of the ball while at the same time failing to execute efficiently on offense. The head coach said the Hawks appeared to settle down and “play a little better” against Luray.

Skyline led the Bulldogs 21-14 after three quarters of their scrimmage (the Hawks eventually won 49-14), and although the Hawks showed big-play ability, that scoring margin could’ve been higher. In addition to a couple misfires to open receivers on Tasker’s part, the Hawks also failed to find points after moving the ball to the Luray 1-yard line late in the second quarter.

“We left plays out there,” Gilbert said. “I thought our first group should’ve had 35 points. We get down to the 1 and we start first-and-goal at the 1 with a bad snap and we can’t overcome it, which is a shame. The same thing happened to us at Spotsy, so two times in that situation we came up short. We’re gonna really work hard on our goal-line offense this week because Central is a beast. They have studs all the way across.”