WOODSTOCK - Skyline sophomore quarterback Blake Appleton came up with two big plays in the fourth quarter against Central as the Hawks pulled away late for a 35-21 win over the Falcons.
After a back-and-forth first half that led both teams to the break tied at 21-21, Appleton came up big with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
After forcing a Central punt late in the third quarter, Skyline begin their drive at their own 29 and faced a second-and-eight at the Falcons' 16 to begin the final quarter.
Appleton took the snap out of the shotgun, rolled right and turned up field, then outran the Central defense, diving into the end zone at the pylon to give the Hawks a 28-21 lead.
"I saw it before the snap," Appleton said. "I saw what the defense was doing and I knew I could make it."
The Falcons (3-3) responded with their best drive of the second half, starting from their own 20 and marching down to the Skyline 12.
Facing a fourth-and-two, Central decided to go for it instead of opting for a field goal attempt, but fullback Gerson Sorto Lopez was stuffed at the line for no gain, turning the ball back over to the Hawks.
After forcing the Hawks to punt after a three-and-out, Central again tried to move down field to tie the game.
But the Skyline defense rose to the occasion once again.
On a fourth-and-eight at the Skyline 42, Central quarterback Kelan Hoover pitched to running back Alexander Neff.
Neff pulled up and tried to fire a pass back to Hoover in the flat. But the pass was short and Hoover was swarmed under as he scooped the ball off the turf for a four-yard loss.
With just under four minutes left in the game and Central out of timeouts, Skyline wanted to run time off the clock and seal the win.
After two runs netted eight yards, Skyline called a timeout with 2:17 left in the game and with the ball at the Central 46.
Appleton took the shotgun snap and faked a hand-off, then rolled to his right.
Appleton then fired a perfect pass down the middle of the field to hit a streaking Budder Haley for a 46-yard touchdown pass to clinch the win for the Hawks.
"Blake came to me during the timeout and he wanted that play," Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said. "The box was loaded, they had everyone inside.
"We had called two plays (run or pass) and it was ultimately my decision, but Blake bought some time and made a great throw, and Budder made a great catch."
After scoring all 21 points in the first half, Central had trouble coming up with any big plays on offense in the second half.
The Falcons were forced to punt on both third quarter possessions and in the fourth quarter, Central turned the ball over on downs twice and Hoover was picked off by Anthony Domino on the final drive of the game.
"We had a lot of good drives, we just couldn't finish," Central coach Mike Yew said. "We just didn't get it done and they did. We fought and we played hard but we just didn't complete it like the first five games."
Skyline's defense, which has been torched frequently in its first five games of the season, allowed just over a 100 yards of offense to the Falcons in the second half and sacked Hoover three times in the fourth quarter.
"We made some adjustments at the half, and the secondary stepped up," said Skyline lineman Will Wolf, who recorded two of the Hawks sacks in the fourth. "I knew they were going to pass and I knew when to just go. We all played well together."
Skyline opened the scoring in the first quarter, taking its first possession 65 yards in five plays as Logan Maiatico scored on five yards out.
Central immediately responded on their first play of the game as Hoover hit Neff on a wheel route for 78-yard touchdown pass.
Skyline once again marched downfield on its next drive, going 79 yards in 10 plays as Darion Santucci bulled in on a fourth-and-goal from the one.
Central tied the game midway through the fourth as Hoover rolled out and hit Logan Yew on a two-yard TD pass.
The game didn't stay tied long as Maiatico took the ensuring kick-off and took it to the house for a 90-yard touchdown run.
But just before the half, Hoover led the Falcons down field once again, and capped it off with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Landon Shockey to tie the score.
Skyline's Douglas Cummings missed on a 52-yard field goal attempt that fell short as time expired in the half.
The win improved the Hawks to 3-3 on the season and snapped a three-game losing streak to the Falcons.
The victory is just what the Hawks needed, said Gilbert, after a tough three-game stretch for the Hawks.
"We needed to beat a team like this, that was a big emphasis for us," Gilbert said. "I'm proud of how we fought tonight. We faced some adversity in the first half and shot ourselves in the foot a few times."
The Hawks rushed for 232 yards on 35 attempts and were led by Maiatico with 74 yards on 11 carries and David Carter's 70 yards on nine carries.
Appleton added 51 yards on seven carries, and was 6-for-10 and 94 yards passing.
Hoover was 10-for-20 for 261 yards and three touchdown passes.
Neff ran for 76 yards on 20 carries.