Skyline beats Sherando, 28-21, wins Northwestern District title
Posted: October 27, 2012
STEPHENS CITY — Once Skyline senior Aaron Jeremiah tackled Sherando’s Josh Ojo at about the 5-yard line, the Hawks had plenty to shout about after a thrilling 28-21 Northwestern District victory over the Warriors at Arrowhead Stadium Friday night.
Skyline head coach Heath Gilbert huddled with his team near midfield and yelled each district team’s name, and then the Hawks’ players screamed “check” after each one before breaking their huddle and running to the sideline to share the victory with their fans in the visitor’s bleachers.
The Hawks’ excitement was obvious after they held off a valiant Sherando effort for the tying score as time expired, and Jeremiah’s big stop gave Skyline (8-1, 4-0) its first unbeaten district season and outright title in the school’s six-year history.
“We had goals from the beginning and we thought that we could do something special this year,” Gilbert said. “Those kids performed and they worked hard and laid it on the line tonight. No one thought that this was going to be easy and it certainly wasn’t. I’m so proud of our kids. They battled.”
The whole game turned out to be a battle to see which team could overcome the most adversity.
Skyline’s winning drive started on its own 42, and the Hawks’ ground game did most of its damage in the second half using the single-wing set.
Jeremiah nearly broke free for what could have been a 58-yard score on the first play of the drive, but Jeremiah stepped out of bounds at the Sherando 35.
Skyline’s Dayvon Haight ripped a 30-yard run out of the single-wing set on the next play to set the Hawks up first-and-goal at the Warrior 5.
Two plays later, Jeremiah scored from 3 yards out to put the Hawks ahead 28-21 with 58 seconds left in the game.
Sherando had one last chance, and the Warriors got a break after a defensive holding call came on the heels of a 7-yard catch by Joshua Wagner that gave the Warriors a first down at the Skyline 38.
Sherando senior Taylor Loudan, seeing his first action at quarterback in mostly spread sets, connected with John Bentley to give the Warriors another first down at the Skyline 14 with 23 seconds left (only one second ticked off the clock on the play.)
Two plays later, Jeremiah stopped Ojo near the Hawks’ sideline as time expired.
“It’s probably one of the wildest games I’ve ever been in,” said Haight, who rushed for 166 yards (on 14 carries) and two touchdowns. “It was very loud and I loved the atmosphere. It was a great game. It means everything. From the beginning — since two-a-days — we said to each other that we didn’t want to share district and we came out and we won it.”
The Warriors (5-4, 2-1) actually went for the win after Joseph Daley’s interception return set up a 3-yard touchdown run by George Aston that cut Skyline’s lead to 21-20 with 2:22 left in regulation.
Sherando lined up for the two-point conversion, but a false-start penalty pushed the Warriors back 5 yards. With the ball on the Hawk 9, Sherando kicker Tylar Clowser hit a 25-yard extra point to tie it.
“We practice the two-point play all the time and it was a good situation for it. I thought we had good momentum and I believed in what our guys were going to do,” Sherando coach Bill Hall said. “It was an easy decision. It was one of the easier decisions of the night.”
Skyline’s single-wing set, featured mostly in the second half, kept churning up chunks of yardage.
Jerrius Baltimore rushed for 85 yards (on nine carries) — including five carries for at least 12 yards in the second half. The Hawks rushed for 377 yards on 45 carries. Haight’s second touchdown came from 9 yards out on a direct snap that put Skyline ahead 21-7 with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
Hall said the Hawks’ did a good job at the point of attack, helping Haight and Baltimore find running room.
“Traditionally speaking [our run defense] is the strength of our team,” Hall said. “We just gave up too many chunk plays and too many big plays. We knew big plays was going to be the key to the game, and when [Skyline] got into that with Baltimore I thought we were going to stiffen up more than we did.”
But the Warriors seemed to respond each time to keep it close.
Loudan continued his solid play, rushing for 144 yards (on 28 carries), and his 5-yard score capped an eight play, 56-yard scoring drive to cut Skyline’s lead to 21-14 with 8:55 left.
Sherando’s defense stopped Skyline from scoring in the first half twice when the Hawks drove inside the Warrior 15, including a big stop on Jeremiah on a keeper up the middle on fourth-and-1 at the Sherando 5.
That stop kept the game knotted 7-7, but the Warriors’ ensuing drive stalled at the Hawk 37. Clowser’s punt pinned Skyline at its own 3-yard line.
After a 3-yard run by Baltimore, Haight took a direct snap, burst through the middle of the line and then cut left, outracing everyone down the Sherando sideline for a 94-yard score that put the Hawks ahead 14-7 at the half.
“It seemed like in the first half our defense was on the field a lot and we didn’t have a lot of offensive snaps,” Hall said. “... In the second half, I thought we did a good job of just fighting back. I think the difference is you have to make big plays in big ballgames to win them and we just didn’t make enough big plays.”
Loudan certainly showed his playmaking abilities, accounting for 248 of the Warriors’ 273 offensive yards. In his first action at quarterback, he finished 8 of 13 for 104 yards and a touchdown.
“Taylor Loudan is a good football player,” Gilbert said. “He’s so elusive. He has great cut-back ability which we saw on film and we knew that was what we were going to get. We battled and battled and just tried to do our best to contain him.”
Loudan, who started at quarterback in the opening series, said his team just made a costly mistake on the false-start penalty when the Warriors lined up to go for the two-point conversion with 2:22 left.
“That was tough and we knew we had a chance to win it right there,” said Loudan, who leads the area with 1,194 rushing yards. “We just had a mental lapse there.
“Our defense fought hard all night and they’ve been there for us all year. It was time for our offense to step up, and we just didn’t do that tonight. We’ll have a good week in practice and come back strong next Friday [against Millbrook].”
— Contact Robert Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org