Recognized as one of our nation’s greatest high school football rivalries, the Battle of Chester is also a multigenerational social event of the season. It is an event that carries little in the way of animosity, but instead an extra heaping of good-natured ribbing. On the Bird sideline this year was freshman Tiffany Stevens, a flutist in the Marching Skyhawk band, who was experiencing her first Bird-Dale game. Stevens commented, “There has been tremendous enthusiasm all week. The pep rally was crazy, especially at the end when the varsity was finally announced.” On the visitor’s side was Lisa Neal, who witnessed the very first game in her own freshman year. She has been a regular attendee, missing only one or two games in the entire series. “In those days, it was known as the Y-Bowl, complete with floats. It was a happy occasion because most of the Bird students had come from Dale and we were just happy to see one another.” Stevens and Neal were joined by literally thousands of their closest friends, who jammed the stadium an hour prior to kick-off.
The game itself was a typical knock-down, drag-out backyard brawl. In the first half, Dale gained control with solid line play, speed, and misdirection in taking a quick 14-0 lead. Mike Edmunds and Airek Green each tallied touchdowns. The Skyhawk defense then tightened and the teams went to the locker room with no further scoring.
A halftime ceremony recognized the 2009 L.C. Bird Hall of Fame class, which included Mark Saunders. Mark’s son Ben was in the midst of a 14-tackle performance to lead the Knight defense. The ceremony seemed to fire up the Skyhawks, who opened the second half with a long interception return. Dale held inside the 10, but field position switched to the home team. Bird finally cut the lead in half on the next possession on Lionel Williams score from the 2. The teams traded possessions into the fourth quarter when an Anthony Harris touchdown strike to Stephen Lee apparently tied the game. The life was taken out of the home crowd, however, when Coby Keck’s PAT was blocked. As many headed to the parking lot, Bird regained possession during the waning minutes. Anthony Harris then took off on an electrifying 40-yard scamper to put the Skyhawks ahead for good. A two-point toss to Deon Clarke sealed the 21-14 win.
This was the second heartbreaking loss for the Knights in as many weeks, both times to teams that were ranked in the top three in the metro poll. Dale will try to right the ship this week when they open Central District play at home versus Petersburg. The 3-0 Skyhawks open up Dominion District play at Monacan.
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SCORING BY QUARTER
First Second Third Fourth Final
THOMAS DALE 14 0 0 0 14
L. C. Bird 0 0 7 14 21