FRONT ROYAL — Skyline’s boys basketball team brought home a trophy last weekend. It could be the first of several trophies for the team this high school season.
Skyline participated in a six-team fall league, which culminated with a tournament last weekend, held at Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy in Stephens City. Skyline beat Class 4 powerhouse Loudoun Valley in the tourney final to win the league title. The Hawks finished 13-1 on the season.
“We played as a team,” Skyline senior Marion ‘Budder’ Haley said. “We beat Loudoun Valley. I think they won states two years ago. We did good. It was awesome.”
Skyline senior Mason Schmitz said it helped the team a lot as they prepare for the upcoming season. Skyline added two new players in Warren County transfers senior Donte Porter and sophomore Elias Carter.
“That was a big preview towards the actual season,” Schmitz said. “It helped us connect more because we had two new players that came over — Donte Porter and Elias Carter. So it probably gave us a look at what we can expect for the actual season. We played really great together.”
Skyline had two teams in the league. They had the high school team and also a travel team called the Front Royal Fury, which consisted of all freshmen. Skyline head boys basketball coach Harold Chunn said there were two freshmen from Warren County and one from Strasburg on the team. The other teams in the league were Clarke County, Loudoun Valley, Hampshire (W.Va.) and Hagerstown (Md.). Hagerstown’s team was also a travel team using players from six high schools.
The Hawks also played the tournament last weekend with heavy hearts. Skyline freshman Brody Michael, who was on the Fury squad, passed away recently and Chunn said that gave the Skyline squad added motivation.
“We had the mindset of we were playing for one of our lost members,” Chunn said of Michael. “He was a very talented young man. I think the boys, they realized, they wanted to go out and play really hard.”
Haley said the Hawks trailed early against Loudoun Valley, but rallied to pick up the title.
“Me, Mason (Schmitz), (Skyline sophomore) Zack (Diggs), the rest of the team we just came together,” Haley said. “We said we got to step up in the second half and we came back and won.”
Schmitz said the league was a lot of fun and it was great just to be able to play basketball again.
“That was amazing,” Schmitz said of playing again. “It’s fun, especially the fall league. It’s so fun. It’s like carefree. So to get back on the court it was the best feeling in the world, especially after such a long time off.”
The players and Chunn said the league took plenty of precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Players were only allowed to take their masks off when they were physically on the court playing. Before players entered the game they had to put on hand sanitizer and have their temperature checked and even during timeouts players had to put on more hand sanitizer.
Chunn said the players handled all the regulations well.
“I think they adjusted very well,” he said. “The hand sanitizer was kind of the issue a little bit. Every now and then you could tell either team playing they would have trouble catching the ball and be like ‘OK too much sanitizer, too much.’ Other than that we did real well.”
Chunn said he was also pleased with the Front Royal Fury. He said it was a great experience for his younger players.
“They did real well,” Chunn said of the Fury. “I didn’t expect them to go in and win games. They were all freshmen. I just wanted to get them exposed to high school basketball.”
Schmitz said it was good for the Hawks to face a team like Loudoun Valley to get them ready for the upcoming season.
“We played them a lot,” Schmitz said. “Most of the games were like neck-and-neck. But it was actually pretty fun. They have this really nice guard, this freshman. He could shoot, drive. But it was nice having that kind of competition coming back to you every week.”
The Hawks have been doing team workouts twice a week for the last two months.
Chunn said they have been having good attendance and the kids seem excited about the season.
Practice is scheduled to start on Dec. 7 for all basketball teams in the Virginia High School League. Skyline’s first game is slated for Dec. 21 at Brentsville. The VHSL is planning on having a condensed season for all sports this year, with each sport playing approximately 60% of their normal season. The plan is to have state championships in every sport.
Schmitz said that with each week the team is getting more and more excited to play.
“I’m so excited for the season,” Schmitz said. “I’m usually the person that tries to get everybody going. So I’m usually the loudest one in the gym. So you can hear me all of practice. I try to make it fun. It is fun, but I try to get everybody in the mood. So I’m definitely excited. Everyone’s excited. We’re all itching to play.”
The Hawks should return most of last year’s 16-8 squad, which fell to Central in the Region 3B semifinals with a state berth on the line.
Chunn said that he has told his players that they need to work hard now if they want to put some more banners, for winning district, region and state titles, up in the gymnasium.
Haley said that he believes this year’s team can achieve big things.
“This is a states team this year,” he said. “If we put in the effort, this is a states team.”