With the Dominion District standings log-jammed at the top, winning is essential for the L.C. Bird Skyhawks game in and game out. At the end of play Friday, four teams are tied with 4-1 district records heading into the last four weeks of the season. The Skyhawks did their part in winning, defeating the Midlothian Trojans 43-14 on the legs of Yahkee Johnson, who ran for a single-game school record 302 yards in the victory.
“It’s never really easy to block for any back, but [Yahkee] Johnson is a great player,” said junior offensive lineman Oliver Wright. “He’s pretty fast and a great teammate.”
Bird and Johnson started things off right, taking the ball down the field on their first drive as senior Yahkee Johnson broke on a 15-yard run to give Bird the lead at 7-0 after a Jose Ayala extra point.
The Skyhawks would score on their next drive, navigating a short field off of an interception by Sterling Morris. It would be Johnson again, this time from eight yards out. A two-point conversion by LaKeith Hopkins made it 15-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Bird would score again to start off the second quarter as Hopkins ran it in from 28 yards out to extend the lead to 22-0 where the score stood at the half.
Midlothian couldn’t move the ball in the first half, actually starting the second half in the red on total yardage. One major factor was Bird applying pressure all half to Midlothian quarterback Justin Joyce.
After a Bird turnover on the exchange from Aaron Fuller to Johnson, Johnson would make his assault on the record book known. First, on a drive started from Bird’s own 14 yard line, Johnson started things with a 14 yard run, and then finished them with a 72-yard touchdown run, his third touchdown of the game. On the next drive, Johnson ripped off another huge chunk of yardage with a 68-yard run, and then punched it in from a yard out to score again.
The Trojans managed two second half touchdowns; both were passes from Joyce to tight-end Omar Howard.
The Skyhawks scored their last touchdown of the game on a 50-yard pass from Fuller to Hopkins. The score gave Bird their biggest lead of the game.
Bird was led by Johnson, whose 302 yards on the ground broke now Atlanta Falcons running back Jason Snelling’s record of 285 yards. Johnson added four touchdowns. Hopkins had two touchdowns, one through the air and one on the ground. The Skyhawks were led on defense by junior Justin Palimore, who totaled nine tackles and a sack. Seniors Will Lawing and Torey Pettis and junior J’Quan Anderson also registered sacks.
“[Yahkee] Johnson has been the best player on the field in every game we’ve played this season,” said L.C. Bird head coach David Bedwell. “I’m amazed at how he can come out and have this type of performance every week.”
Johnson, who has scored 20 touchdowns this season already, has seen recruiting from start to pick up, with JMU and Hampton being two main schools in the mix according to his father, Robert Johnson. The senior was also recently visited by West Virginia University. Despite his 2,001 yards last season and 1,330 yards this season through six games, the knock on Johnson is his size. Johnson comes in at 5’8 170 pounds, but his speed, work ethic and citizenship is undeniable.
“I’m proud of Johnson as a football player,” said Bedwell. “But I’m more proud of him as a person – he cares about everyone, wants to make them better,” he continued. “When you have a kid like Johnson on your team, you’re lucky.”
The Dominion District is heating up with Manchester, Clover Hill, Cosby and Bird all at the top with 4-1 records. Bird will travel to Huguenot next week, and every game from here on out is a must win to ensure a playoff spot. The most notable match-up remaining on Bird’s schedule is the last week of the season when they face Clover Hill.
In other football action, Meadowbrook beat Prince George 60-7, advancing to 6-0 and 3-0 in the district. Thomas Dale defeated Dinwiddie 30-18 to advance to 4-2 and 4-0 in the district, setting up the potential for a huge game as Thomas Dale and Meadowbrook meet each other on Oct. 28. Matoaca evened their record at 3-3 and 2-1 in the district with a 20-14 win over Petersburg.