Skyline's late drive knocks off James Wood

WINCHESTER — With his team trailing 20-14 James Wood with a little more than seven minutes remaining on Friday night, Skyline quarterback Aidan Vaught said there was just one thought on his mind.

“We weren’t losing,” Vaught said. “That’s all I got to say.”

And the junior made good on that promise. Vaught rushed for 61 yards in an 81-yard march, including the final two for a touchdown, as the Hawks rallied to a 21-20 win over the Colonels at Kelican Stadium.

Skyline (2-0) was able to take advantage of a strange turn of events on James Wood’s final score that allowed Benjamin Wooddell to boot the game-winning extra point.

Through three quarters, the contest was tied between the Colonels (0-2) and the Hawks, who were playing their first game of the season after receiving a forfeit win over Strasburg in the opener.

As James Wood took the field with 7:46 left, receiver Eli Miller told his teammates, “Let’s have a drive.”

Thanks to Miller and quarterback Jared Neal, that drive lasted just one play. Neal took the snap and gave a pump-fake, then launched a deep pass to Miller, who grabbed it and raced up the right sidelines for an 80-yard touchdown.

But after Miller crossed the goal line, he suffered a leg cramp, something that plagued several Colonels during the evening. Miller’s cramp would make a difference on the next snap.

Instead of kicking an extra point to the surprise of many James Wood fans, coach Ryan Morgan went for a two-point conversion, which failed, leaving the score 20-14.

Why didn’t the Colonels kick?

“We didn’t have a holder,” Morgan explained. “… We would have gone for one, but we were actually down to our second holder and we lost our second holder. We would have been on our third holder, so we figured our chances were better with the offense.”

Needing to go 81 yards after getting the ball with 7:24 left, Vaught said the Hawks were well aware that a touchdown and extra point could make them a winner.

The 14-play drive would not feature a pass. Vaught had gains of 15 and 17 yards early in the drive, but he made his biggest play when the Hawks faced a third-and-16 from the James Wood 35. Rolling right like he was contemplating a pass, Vaught scrambled out of the pocket, broke a couple of arm tackles and gained 19 yards before his was knocked out of bounds at the 16.

Vaught’s nine-yard run and penalty gave the Hawks first-and-goal at the 3. After Dustin Gue gained a yard, Vaught rolled over the right side and Wooddell’s kick made it 21-20 with 1:34 left.

“He’s a good athlete at quarterback,” Morgan said of Vaught. “He made a lot of good plays down the stretch. He’s a really shifty athlete and he runs behind his pads. He doesn’t necessarily drive people, but if you try to arm-tackle him he’s not going to get pulled down to the ground. He’s going to run through those.”

The Colonels had a shot, taking over at at their 34 with 1:34 to go. Neal hit Dayton Culp for a 12-yard gain on the first play, but from there the drive collapsed. A five-yard penalty was followed by a 14-yard sack by Marcus Lambert II. On fourth-and-22, Tobias Caison-Mayberry sacked Neal for a 13-yard loss to end the Colonels’ comeback hopes.

“When it comes down to crunch time and you need to pass protect and we don’t do that, it becomes a major problem,” Morgan said. “Jared is a good accurate quarterback and he makes good decisions, but we’ve got to protect the quarterback.”

Neal threw three TD passes in the contest. His first TD pass was a 31-yard strike to Michael Jackson, who made the grab while also drawing an interference penalty. Hunter Barnhart’s PAT made it 7-0 with 1:49 left in the first quarter.

Skyline got even on Vaught’s 55-yard TD strike to Tyson Funk, who beat double-coverage, early in the second quarter. James Wood went back ahead as Isaiah Ralls took a short pass and slipped a tackle for a seven-yard TD with 7:50 left before the half.

The Colonels led 14-7 at the break, but missed on a couple of opportunities. A first-quarter drive ended on a fumble from the Skyline 16. At the end of the half, they had first-and-goal from the Hawks’ 10, but ended up with a botched snap and hold of a field goal attempt with 13.3 seconds to go.

“We moved the ball decently up-and-down the field a little bit, but we would get down down near the red zone and we would put the ball on the ground or we missed blocks and would get pushed out of the red zone,” Morgan said. “The field goal attempt there in the second quarter, we had a snap and hold issue. We have to take advantage of those.”

In the third quarter, Skyline got even on Gue’s 36-yard burst up the middle to cap a 54-yard drive.

James Wood had to do all of its damage in the air because the yards were hard to come by on the ground thanks to a Skyline defensive line led by Jack Clingerman and Garrett Mohr, both listed at 255 pounds. Thanks to some big losses on sacks, the Hawks held the Colonels to minus-42 yards on 21 carries.

“They’ve got some big linemen who were athletic and aggressive,” Morgan said. “We thought we could run the ball a little bit better. We didn’t think we could overpower them, but we thought we could have some success and have a little more balance. We just couldn’t run the ball functionally enough to take some of the load off of our quarterback and our passing game.”

Neal finished 24 for 36 for 312 yards and two interceptions. Miller had nine catches for 169 yards.

Vaught, who also had a 69-yard kickoff return, led the Hawks with 133 yards on 22 carries. He was 3 of 9 for 58 yards with an interception.

“It was a big win, especially not getting to play our first game,” Vaught said. “We didn’t know what we were going to look like. It was a big win against a good team.”

James Wood’s defense, led most of the evening by linebacker Zach Smith and defensive end Jordan Sweetster, got an interception from Miller and a fumble recovery from Brenden Tinsman.

Skyline returns to action Thursday at Clarke County. James Wood has a bye before traveling to Brentsville on Sept. 16.

“We have a bye week, so we’ve got some time to figure stuff out,” Morgan said. “We have some time for the kids to rest up. We had a lot of kids cramping tonight for whatever reason, so they need to get themselves healthy. The coaches need to get back and regroup and figure out what we’re good at. We need to emphasize that and figure out what we’re not good at and get rid of that.”

— Contact Walt Moody at
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