Despite all of L.C. Bird High School’s success in football, there was one thing none of its team had accomplished: No Bird football team with a perfect 10-0 regular season record has been able to win a playoff game.
But, on Friday, this streak was endeefore,” said senior linebacker Deon Clarke. “This was a great game for our whole defense, everyone did so well.”
The Skyhawks reached 11-0 in the same fashion they have won all season, getting a great game from junior Yahkee Johnson, good game management and timely and accurate throws from quarterback Ant Harris and a superb effort from their tenacious defense, which has only allowed one third-quarter touchdown all season. The team did all this without a major component of its offense, as Jamil McGinnis, one of the team’s top wide outs, was out with a fractured ankle.
The defense, in fact, was so formidable the Springers didn’t get a first down until late in the second half, and managed just 59 yards of total offense.
Highland Springs, known for its defensive presence, came out strong, sacking Harris on Bird’s first drive of the game. After the sack and two consecutive three-and-outs by Highland Springs, it looked as if the game would be a slugfest.
The first and only touchdown of the first quarter came at the 1:18 mark, as a long drive by Bird came to an end with a 6-yard run by Johnson. A penalty on the extra point attempt by Highland Springs allowed Johnson to convert for two after the missed extra point. Bird led 8-0.
The Skyhawks struck again in the second quarter on some aggressive play calling; Bird went for a fourth and 10 from the Highland Springs 28 yard line. The call was for a pass, and Harris made a beautiful throw to Johnson on a pass out of the backfield, hitting Johnson in stride for the touchdown. The score was 15-0 Bird, where it remained for the half.
“We have a lot of guys that can make plays,” said Harris. “We really had some guys that stepped up with Jamil’s [McGinnis] injury. We were hungry tonight.”
After a big fourth-down stop by the Springers to begin the second half, it appeared they might have life, but they were unable to move the ball against Bird’s defense.
Bird scored again in the third quarter; it was Johnson again, this time on a 1-yard run set up by a 54-yard reception by Tyrek Branch on another thread-the-needle pass by Harris.
In the fourth, Bird scored two more times; both touchdowns were scored by Daniel Givens. The first was on an option, where Givens threw the ball for a 27-yard touchdown to Branch. The second came two drives later on a 22-yard scamper, which extended the lead to 36-0.
“Overall, this was the best game I think we played all season,” said Bedwell. “Defense was lights out, Tyrek Branch played a heck of a game, Harris continued his streak of not losing a game as a starting quarterback, and Johnson is just tough.”
Highland Springs would save its most productive drive for last, but that drive would end in a Tevin Harrison interception that was Bird’s third of the game.
Johnson finished the game with 200 total yards (172 rushing), and ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown and intercepted a pass. Harris passed for a touchdown and picked off a pass. Torey Pettis recorded a sack.
Bird will advance to face the Hermitage Panthers, who are also 11-0. Hermitage recorded a 28-14 victory over Varina in the regional semi-finals.
Hermitage features the No. 3 ranked college prospect in the country for the class of 2011, according to rivals.com, in linebacker Curtis Grant. Grant has been recruited by virtually every major college program, including Alabama and Florida, and in-state schools Richmond, Virginia and Virginia Tech. He has no commitment listed as of press time.
The last and only time that Bird and Hermitage faced each other was in 2004, also in the Central Region finals; Bird won that game, 15-13.
Friday’s regional final will be played at Bird, which earned homefield advantage for the regionals; kickoff will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale all week through the Bird Athletic office.