Knights' Depth Tested In Loss To Bird
By Blake Belden
Sep 9, 2013, 08:16
Blake Beldon/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Defending state champions L.C. Bird (1-0) upheld their dominance on the football field in their 35-6 season-opening victory against Chesterfield rivals Thomas Dale (1-1) in the fortieth Battle of Chester showdown on Friday night.
This marks L.C. Bird’s sixth consecutive win against Thomas Dale, having last lost to them during the playoffs of the 2009 season when the Knights grabbed the state title.
On Friday night, the Skyhawks relentlessly outperformed the Knights in almost every aspect of game play, nearly quintupling their total offensive yardage and keeping them scoreless in three quarters.
In just under 31 minutes of possession, L.C. Bird finished the night with 397 yards, 280 rushing and 117 passing, compared to Thomas Dale’s total 80 yards of which 65 occurred in the first half.
The most impressive performance of the evening may have been that of L.C. Bird’s new senior running back Earl Hughes, who garnered two Skyhawks touchdowns and racked up a total 224 all-purpose yards.
Hughes, who previously played for Meadowbrook, had 30 carries for 154 yards, one nine-yard reception, three punt returns for 39 yards, and one kickoff return for 22 yards proving his versatile efficiency on offense.
“We don’t know a lot about him, and we found out a lot about him tonight...That’s just a typical [L.C.] Bird tailback right there, getting those kind of yards and those kind of carries. Great job for him especially early in the season. We’re expecting big things from him,” Bedwell said.
Stephen Mines and Jaylan Lassiter rushed the ball in for two more L.C. Bird touchdowns, and Darrius Gillus caught a 14 yard pass from Terrance Ervin for the Skyhawk’s only passing touchdown of the night.
Junior Knights running back Eric Finney was responsible for more than half of Thomas Dale’s yards, carrying the ball for 45 yards and the Knights’ only touchdown.
Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker complimented Finney on giving the team a prideful spark in the second quarter, a momentum boost unfortunately cut short by further team injuries.
Tucker said that these injuries have demonstrated that he and the other coaches need to focus on strengthening the depth of the team.
“I think that was one of the things that hurt us this week is our backups weren’t prepared. They came out star struck, and this is the first big game they’ve ever been in. They knew what plays they were running and they ran the right plays, they just got a little star struck playing Friday night lights,” he said.
Because of an injury, quarterback Trevor Luke will be out and Tucker said that the team will have to adapt to back-up quarterback A.J. Holliday.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in A.J. He’s a great quarterback and what we have to be able to do with him is adjust our offense to him, to fit his suits,” Tucker said.
A 99- yard touchdown drive by the Skyhawks in the third quarter to push their lead to 22-6 initiated a huge separation in score and confidence that may have had the biggest impact on the outcome of the game.
“That 99-yard drive there was big to get us out the hole, put us up by two scores and that’s something we’re going to build on...That’s what you want to see in a first game. You know, we’re a little out of shape, but as the season goes on, we’ll get in better shape,” said L.C. Bird head coach David Bedwell.
Tucker said that a controversial call by the referees at the beginning of this possession could have greatly turned the game in Thomas Dale’s favor.
“We came out after half time...I thought we made some good adjustments...and we got the safety. That would have been a huge momentum change, and they didn’t call it a safety. They waved it off and put it on the four yard line. I couldn’t figure out why they did that,” Tucker said.
However, Tucker couldn’t help but compliment the opposing team’s efforts.
“They’re a great football team. They put together a great drive. I mean the first half they had two really good drives where they went down and scored on us...You give credit where credit is due,” he said.
Bedwell said certain expectations were fulfilled, but that despite the win there are definitely improvements that must be made on his Skyhawks team.
“We had some kids step up at the end of the game that could have just been in cruise control, but they played hard and that’s what you want to see.
Those expectations were met. We’ve got some things we want to clean up, assignments and things like that, but that’s just football. [It’s] early in the year and hopefully we can get those things straight. Hopefully we’ll keep improving every week,” Bedwell said.
Both teams will continue their seasons this Friday where L.C. Bird will travel to George Wythe and Varina will challenge the Knights at home.