FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Skyhawks take flight in search of three-peat

Expectations are high for the L.C. Bird Skyhawks, who have now won back-to-back state championships, solidifying themselves as a dynasty in the Central Region. Currently on a 29 game winning streak as a program, Skyhawk Nation is looking forward to another successful year.

“It’s really back to business as usual,” said Bedwell. “When we came into practice we weren’t thinking about last year anymore.”

Many faces of last year’s team moved to the next level, including Terrance Ervin who is competing for the starting job at Norfolk State and former running back Earl Hughes, who’s getting reps at wide receiver for Virginia State. Standout wide receiver Rasheed Worsham is at Lackawanna Community College in Pennsylvania along with offensive tackle Quadrick Barnes. Linebacker Jaylan Lassiter is on scholarship at Fairmont State (West Virginia) and “grandpa” Josey Davis, last year’s center, passed on college football to serve in the United States Marine Corp.

“That’s a big loss,” said Bedwell. “He’s one of the toughest kids to ever play at L.C. Bird, and that’s really saying something.”

While plenty of talent has moved on- plenty has returned- leaving room for new faces to contribute.

“We have a chip on our shoulder,” explained senior Tyler Wilkins. “Now this team wants to work as hard as possible to be the best ever at L.C. Bird.”

L.C. Bird will start the quest for a three-peat on September 5 at Thomas Dale in the Battle of Chester.

Quarterback: The responsibility of filling the void left by Terrance Ervin will fall on junior transfer Jalen Elliott. Suited for the job and armed with two college offers (Virginia Tech, Old Dominion), Elliot is athletic, fast and has made strides in his development as a quarterback, rather than just an athlete. In addition to being a smart player, he possesses a 3.7 GPA.

Running Back: Perhaps the most important position on any Bird team is who will tote the pigskin 20-30 times per game. This year, senior Stephen Mines (5’10 180) will get the first crack. Despite missing a portion of last year with a broken collarbone, he impressed in mop-up time and looks to become the next great Skyhawk running back. A junior, J.B. Wright (5’6 170) has reportedly had an impressive camp and could push Mines for the starting role.

Wide Receiver: Senior Tyler Wilkins, a James Madison commit, returns to lead this group. Sure handed, the future Duke was a great third option last year and will step up in 2014. Kier Townsend (6’2) and Kumonde Hines (6’3) will also line-up on offense, providing better height than Bird featured last season.

Offensive Line: The losses of Josey Davis and Quadrick Barnes leave big holes in the line, but returnees Andre Davis (6’2, 265) and Trey Ramsey along with blocking tight end DeMarco Scott bring experience and skill. Marshall Hicks and Patrick Gibson (6’2, 280) will be expected to fill the gaps left by Barnes and Davis. There should be a learning curve here for the Skyhawks.

Defensive Line: Rashard Jones started at defensive end last year and returns, while starting tackle Devin Durham is also back. Travis McDaniel will start this year, while Tajon Chandler and Darnell Gore figure to battle for the last spot on the line. At 19 years old, Defensive State Player of the Year Mike Harris is ineligible.

Linebackers: With a dynamite trio last year, losing Darius Gillus (baseball at Old Dominion) and Jaylan Lassiter is huge for the unit. Sophomore Rayshard Ashby, who surprised as a freshman in 2013 returns a bigger, better version of himself. “He’s an unbelievable kid,” said Bedwell. Filling in the gaps will be Malik Hamilton, who was called the surprise of camp and Devon Hill, a 6’3 255 pound transfer from Petersburg who provides size the Skyhawks haven’t seen at the position in some time.

Defensive Backs: Senior Daijaune Dorsey returns to anchor the unit. The D-1 prospect has gotten interest from several schools and offers should be forthcoming. Tyler Wilkins will play a hybrid DB/LB role, and leads this unit. Jalen Elliott will play on both sides of the ball, as former L.C. Bird standout Ant Harris did, while newcomer Kumonde Hines will fill out the secondary.

Special Teams: Petie Bush, a transfer from Matoaca will handle punting duties. Lewis Grant, a rugby and soccer player will kick-off the ball, while sophomore Keaton Riley will be the placekicker.

ONE TO WATCH:
Tyler Wilkins, Senior
6’3 190 pounds
Wide Receiver/Defensive Back

The leader of Bird’s team in 2014, Wilkins recently committed to James Madison University, selecting the Dukes over Virginia Military Institute and Towson.
Head coach David Bedwell has said that the senior was the hardest working Skyhawk in the offseason and he has taken on a leadership role on both offense and defense.
“Tradition is a big deal at Bird,” explained Wilkins. “We want to come in and keep that tradition strong.”
Wilkins will be the team’s top option at wide out and a force in the defensive backfield. The senior is also a leader in the classroom with a 3.0 GPA.

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