Skyline football team gets rude awakening in first-ever varsity contest
HARTLAND - The Skyline High School football team flexed a strong, synchronized offense in the first quarter of the program's first varsity game at Hartland.
Then, the second quarter happened. There, Skyline's defensive weaknesses surfaced, turning Friday night into a rude awakening for the visiting Eagles in a 64-26 loss.
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"Defensively, it was a rough night," admitted Skyline coach Randy Hutchison, whose team is comprised of sophomores and juniors. "Every team we play is going to be bigger and stronger than we are. I think we'll be able to compete with a lot of the teams in terms of speed, but bigger and stronger is pretty tough to defend."
Most difficult for Skyline to defend was Hartland running back Chad Hunt, who rushed for a game-high 214 yards and six touchdowns.
"We have to be able to stop the run and be able to run," added Hutchison, whose team gained a mere three rushing yards.
Hunt opened the game's scoring less than two minutes in, finishing off a four-play, minute-and-a-half drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Skyline (0-1) promptly responded on its opening drive with the one area it excelled, the passing game. Quarterback Andrew Copp connected with Jordan Woods for a 48-yard touchdown.
The two teams traded scoring-punches the rest of the quarter, highlighted by Copp connecting with Kelvontae McKinney for an 87-yard touchdown.
"When we made mistakes, (Copp) made us pay," confessed Hartland coach Marcus Dukes.
Copp made Hartland (1-0) pay for the third time in the quarter, with 3.8 seconds left, leading Nelson Hansen to the end zone on an 18-yard pass up the middle, cutting Skyline's deficit to 28-20 after the point-after was blocked.
"The offense was clicking on all cylinders," said Copp, who finished with a mammoth 475 yards and four touchdowns. A smudge on Copp's stat-sheet, however, was his three interceptions.
"Our receivers are great," added Copp. "You won't find a better receiving class in the SEC. If we can get time, I think I can just deliver the ball to them. It was definitely encouraging, the first quarter and a half."
After forcing Hartland into a rare three-and-out, Skyline was back in the air with a 72-yard touchdown from Copp to Woods at 10:12. Skyline's two-point attempt for the tie failed, making it 28-26.
Skyline never saw the end zone again.
Meanwhile, Hartland's Hunt was just finding his comfort zone: the end zone. The senior bullied in an 11-yard touchdown at 3:44, yielding the 35-26 halftime score.
"We went into halftime and tweaked a few things here and there and changed our coverage a little," noted Dukes.
That proved effective in the half's opening play, as Hartland's Mike Bair picked off a Copp pass and weaved in for a 30-yard touchdown return.
It was a microcosm of the heightened pressure Copp and Skyline's offensive line faced throughout the entire second half. In fact, with 8:09 left in the third, Copp was backpedaling across the goal line and sacked for a safety.
"They were bringing some extra pressure right up the gut and basically I didn't have a lot of time to throw," said Copp. "They just started rushing me and getting to the backfield really quick."
Skyline never found an answer offensively or defensively in the second half. Meanwhile, Hartland tucked the ball into Hunt's numbers until the final score read 64-26.
Skyline's Woods finished with 218 receiving yards on 10 catches and McKinney hauled in seven catches for 129 yards.
"We've got some good skill kids, but we need to develop a running game," reiterated Hutchison. "If we can't get it going, it's going to be rough for our receivers and quarterback."
Nevertheless, "Hey, it's something to build on. We'll learn and grow."
Kaleb Roedel is a sports writer for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734)623-2562 and e-mailed at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kaleb_R.