Knights Fall in 'Battle of Chester'
By DAVID BREIDENBACH, Correspondent
Sep 10, 2012, 13:01
L.C. Bird quarterback Terrance Ervin (1) threads the needle between Thomas Dale senior Aaron Green (3) and a teammate during the Battle of Chester on Friday. The Skyhawks scored in the final minute to solidify a 14-7 road victory (photo by David Breidenbach).
CHESTER — For the first time in several years, the Battle of Chester – which pits Thomas Dale against L.C. Bird – was indeed a battle worthy of the hype.
While the game resulted in a fourth straight victory for Bird, it took 39 seconds short of the full 48 minutes to decide a victor. Paul Robertson provided the final margin, scampering in from 24 yards out to give the Skyhawks a 14-7 win.
“I knew it was open every time and I just hit the hole,” Robertson said about his winning score. “It was my first game and I was a little nervous, but I just had to suck it up for my team. On that play, I was just running.”
Until those final seconds, it was a defensive battle between the two neighboring Chesterfield County schools.
On the first play of the game, the Knights’ offense and the Skyhawks’ defense got into an on-field scuffle that the referees had to break up.
Both teams received personal foul penalties and the referees made it known to both squads that any continuation of that kind of play would result in ejections.
From that point on, the players settled down – but neither team lost its intensity.
The first half was dominated by team defense as neither team could muster much offense.
Thomas Dale nose tackle Blake Banty was getting great penetration at the line and creating havoc in the Bird backfield. He disrupted a number of plays, and forced quick passes and changes.
But late in the second half, he was injured during a block and was out for the rest of the game. While his replacement did a good job, he wasn’t able to get into the backfield as often.
Bird’s defense, keyed to stop Thomas Dale senior D.J. Reid, was getting it done on the field, too. In response, Thomas Dale quarterback John Ford often had to pull the ball down and run or try to loft a pass to an outlet.
The Knights took the lead when Ford dropped back and waited for Reid to come open on a post pattern down the left side.
Ordinarily a running back, Reid made a great adjustment, pulled down the pass and was off to the races with most of the Skyhawks’ secondary behind him.
“DJ is very versatile,” said Thomas Dale coach Kevin Tucker. “We play him in a lot of positions.”
But the second half belonged to the Skyhawks. They started off with a long drive that ate up most of the third quarter and ended with Lionel Williams’ touchdown run. Bird coach David Bedwell made two key adjustments that enabled his team to start moving the ball.
“We used an extra tight end in there and it helped,” Bedwell said. “And we put an extra blocking back in and that helped. You don’t know what’s going to work. You just get lucky and it’s working, so you stay with it.
“It’s more the kids playing hard, playing physical and playing to the end of the game. We give Robertson a lot of grief sometimes but he’s replacing Yahkee Johnson, and that’s quite a job.”