When people think about real football, they think about a cold, rainy, smash-mouth type of football game being played on a wet and muddy field. Well, Friday night at Thomas Dale’s Ed Karpus Field, there was an abundance of high school football aroma.
Both L.C. Bird and Thomas Dale played what seemed to be just a running back show of power. The Knights won 36-6 after eight straight losses to the Skyhawks in their annual game.
“This win means a lot to the community and to the kids,” said Thomas Dale coach Kevin Tucker. “We have wanted this one for quite a while, and they’ve had our number for quite a while,” he continued. “Our kids came out and played hard; I’m so proud of them.”
Thomas Dale was led by running back Elijah Burns on offense, with 120 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Also for the Knights, Collin Holmes added a 24-yard touchdown and Chris Tyree found pay dirt from one yard out. These performances weren’t possible without strong offensive line play.
“Our offensive line was hungry, we call them trench dogs, and those guys wanted to keep the ball on the ground and keep grinding it out,” explained Tucker. “They didn’t want us to throw the ball tonight. So we came out, followed their wishes, and they put us in the end zone quite a few times.”
The Knights were led by a dominant linebacker corps on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Dusan Stjepanovic had a career night with 18 tackles, three quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
It was a busy night for Adam Hall, who finished with 12 tackles and a sack and for Richard D’Abreu, with 12 tackles and three tackles for a loss. The numbers speak for themselves; they got the job done on both sides of the ball. Tucker was proud of the way his team fought all night long to get the win. His pre-season premonition that this defense would be special has started to come true.
“I said early on, this would be one of the strongest defenses we’ve had. Our front four we have up there are just dogs,” Tucker said.
“Dusan is all over the place, and you got a freshman on the other side in Bryce carter that played a heck of a game. Our middle linebackers were flying to the ball. Trey Smith, we put No. 11 on him to honor Malcolm Piggott [a Thomas Dale football and basketball standout who drowned in a small lake near the Chester YMCA in 2007 before his senior year].“He honored him tonight and played for those that came before him.
Coach Tucker got a Gatorade bath on that rainy, chilly September night.
“The Gatorade bath was a little chilly for a September game,” he said. “It felt more like a late October game due to the weather, but it felt good. This jacket kept me dry, so the Gatorade just kind of washed off me. The kids worked hard for that, and I’m so happy for these guys; they played their hearts out tonight.”
Stjepanovic, a 6-3, 230-pound senior, played a huge role in Thomas Dale’s win over L.C. Bird. He dedicated his effort to those who played before him on the same field.
“It’s all just one unit; it’s not about just me,” Stjepanovic said. “If I get the tackle, it’s because of one of my teammates. I feel like we fed off the defense, and the special teams played a big part getting the win over Bird. It feels good getting this win.
“We’ve been so close in the past when Bird had the Hail Mary right here in this end zone. I saw my older teammates that graduated that were crying, devastated, and I’m so happy that I could get this win for them tonight.”
The Skyhawks played a hard-fought game with the Knights, and although the scoreboard doesn’t prove it, they made some good strides during the game.
The Skyhawks had a big night rushing the ball in the rainy weather, with running back C.J. Donaldson rushing a whopping 36 times for 138 yards, while Jeremiah Carter rushed for the Skyhawks’ only touchdown of the game.
On defense, L.C. Bird had their fair share of struggles, but stiffened up at times as the game went on. They will look to rebound next week after their worst loss since 2004 against Landstowne of Virginia Beach.
With the win, Thomas Dale moves to 2-0 and will travel to play Hermitage at 7 p.m. Friday night, while L.C. Bird falls to 1-1 and will play conference-rival Midlothian at home at the same time.