Bird’s defense shuts down Salem, Skyhawks to state final

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An old adage states that defense wins championships. While it hasn’t yet resulted in a championship in 2013 for L.C. Bird Skyhawks, it allowed them to advance to the state final to take on Briar Woods this Saturday at 12:07 p.m. at UVA’s Scott Stadium to win one.

Bird edged Salem (Virginia Beach, Va.) 7-3 in the 5A South Regional Championship game, taking the lead at the 3:06 mark on a two-yard touchdown run by running back Earl Hughes in a game that was otherwise marred by penalties as Bird was flagged 21 times for 193 yards.

On a bleak day, it turned out to be all about the defense.

“We had to buckle our hammers up just like they did,” said defensive end Mike Harris. “We knew it would be a great game.”

Salem took a third quarter lead 3-0 on a 25-yard field goal by Tyler McKee. On a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, freshman linebacker Rayshard Ashby surged into the backfield, blocking the attempt with his helmet and allowing Bird to start from midfield, entirely shifting the  momentum of the game.

“After that play, the sidelines and the crowd got hype,” said quarterback Terrance Ervin. “We knew we would put points up then.”

On that drive, Hughes found pay dirt, and that’s the only scoring Bird would need- it was all about the defense. The senior finished with 188 yards on a soggy field and will almost certainly break Paul Robertson’s single season rushing record this Saturday against Briar Woods.

In addition to penalties holding Bird back, the Sun Devils were in the backfield against the run more often than anyone else Bird had played this season.

“Their defense was pretty good, they have some good defensive lineman,” said Bedwell. “They did a good job of chasing us down on the backside.”

Ashby, a freshman, enjoyed another great performance delivering two huge hits, six tackles and the field goal block that changed the face of the game. Harris turned in other outstanding performance with nine tackles and a sack.

Bedwell stated that the field goal block was the “play of the game.”

Additionally, three turnovers deep in Bird territory cost Salem. Interceptions by Tyler Wilkins and Daijaune Dorsey proved huge in the second half, and an early fumble recovery by linebacker Jaylan Lassiter all halted Sun Devil drives.

“We didn’t give up, we knew we were going to keep fighting to the end,” said Dorsey.

The Skyhawks (14-0) will fight on this Saturday in Charlottesville against Briar Woods (Loudoun County) who is 13-1 on the season and edged North Stafford 27-25 last week. The Skyhawks look to repeat as state champions with a 12:07 p.m. kick-off. Follow twitter@VNewsSports for live updates.

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