The 40th edition of the Battle of Chester featured the defending division six state champions in the L.C. Bird Skyhawks, and a young, upstart Thomas Dale squad fresh off of a week zero victory against Cosby. The Skyhawks would dominate the game on both sides of the ball en route to their sixth straight victory against the Knights, 35-6.
“It feels good to win the Battle of Chester,” said Bird running back Earl Hughes, a transfer from Meadowbrook. “At Meadowbrook, it was rivalry; here, it’s a lot bigger.”
The game is a part of the Great American Rivalry Series, which named Hughes its MVP. The senior rushed for 154 yards on 30 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“We didn’t know a lot about him (when he transferred), but we found out tonight” stated L.C. Bird Head Coach David Bedwell. “Earl seems like a typical Bird tailback to me.”
Hughes was a large part of a typically dominant Bird ground game that also included 64 yards and a touchdown from junior Stephen Mines, and 35 yards and a touchdown from senior Jaylan Lassiter.
Scoring opened with Hughes’ first touchdown run, a two yard punch-in that made it 6-0 Bird. AfterLassiter recovered his first of two fumbles, it would be him on offense muscling the ball in from 22 yards out dragging a Thomas Dale defender with him to the end zone. The Knights would answer with a touchdown from halfback Eric Finney, who finished the game with 44 yards on the ground to make it 14-6 at the half.
“We felt as though we had the personnel to match-up,” explained Thomas Dale Head Coach Kevin Tucker. “We went back to our second half (vs. Cosby) last week.”
Bird would romp through the second half, as Thomas Dale was unable to put a drive together to gain any momentum, in part due to turnovers. Jaquan Clay and Derrick Goddette both registered interceptions in the fourth quarter.
The Skyhawk’s first drive of the second half spanned 99 yards and concluded with a 13 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Terrance Ervin to fullback Darius Gillus. Before the epic drive, officials reversed an initial call of a safety on the second play of the drive, when Hughes was nearly tackled in the end zone. In the fourth, Hughes would score his second touchdown on a seven yard run and one drive later Mines would score from 13 yards out.
Defensively, Thomas Dale was led by defensive tackle Darvin Taylor who had ten tackles and two sacks. Linebacker Marco Carrabotta registered nine stops and a sack, and Virginia Tech commit C.J. Reavis tallied nine tackles.
The win for Bird was the sixth straight overall in the series and the tenth straight regular season win for the Skyhawks. Dale’s last victory against Bird was in the 2009 playoffs when they defeated the Skyhawks 28-14 en route to the state championship.
“This was a typical first game of the season,” said Bedwell. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on,” he continued. “If we’re peaking in week one of the season, we’re going to have problems later.”
One of those things will be reducing penalties, as Bird was accessed 12 penalties for 120 yards.
Bird starts their season 1-0, while Thomas Dale falls to 1-1. The Skyhawks travel to face George Wythe on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Knights will face a tough Varina squad on the road at 7 p.m. For updates on football and other fall sports, follow @VNewsSports on twitter.