Yahkee Johnson and the L.C. Bird Skyhawks are flying high after their win against Clover Hill Friday. Bird was trailing 13-0 at the half and battled back to defeat their previously undefeated district foe by a score of 14-13.
But, arguably, the Skyhawk that has soared the most this season is Johnson, who has consistently run over opponents all season, brushing with school history and cheering for his teammates all the way through. Against the best defense in the Dominion District Friday, Johnson totaled 213 yards from scrimmage, and 166 of those came on the ground.
Johnson was a transfer into L.C. Bird this year from Varina. Last year for Varina, he played junior varsity and was not moved up to varsity. According to his father, Robert Johnson, Johnson was having some struggles in the classroom.
“At Varina, Yahkee played very well, but we needed to re-focus a few things,” explained Robert Johnson. “We worked hard on it, and this year all I hear from his teachers is that he’s doing very well and he really has improved a lot. My hat’s off to the Bird faculty for their great support.”
Despite coming within just one yard of now-Falcons running back Jason Snelling’s school record for yards in a single game against Monacan, the focus for Johnson has been on the team and winning.
“I feel blessed to have come this close to a record,” said Johnson. “But as long as the team is winning, we’re on the right path.”
And win they have, as Bird will carry its perfect 7-0 record into a home game Friday with George Wythe.
On the season, Johnson has amassed a Central Region and Dominion District high 1,470 yards and has also has scored 17 touchdowns, 15 rushing and two receiving.
Johnson is averaging an amazing 210 rushing yards per game. And, like his counterpart Domico Phillips, he employs great speed and outstanding agility, making defenders miss easily. He will also be a member of the L.C. Bird basketball team in the coming season.
“He’s the heart and soul of our offense, we go as he goes,” said Bird head coach David Bedwell. “He’s a team kid, he wants everyone to do well. He wants to be an impact player but he doesn’t look for the spotlight and the limelight.”
He’s gotten plenty of attention this year, and L.C. Bird is ranked 21st in the state, thanks in part to Johnson’s success. Robert Johnson maintains that his son prefers to play it behind the scenes.
“He’s always been kind of shy, and humble and willing to give other people the credit for his successes,” Robert Johnson said. “He’s got a spiritual side also and that comes first.”
That spiritual side was perhaps influenced by his grandfather Robert Winfree, who is the pastor at New Life Deliverance Tabernacle, the church Johnson attends weekly with his family and is active in.
“He’s a very family-oriented young man,” Robert Johnson said. “That’s something I think is lost a bit in today’s world, he’s also a great role model for his younger brothers.”
One of those younger brothers, Robert Johnson, Jr., made Bird’s varsity basketball squad as a freshman and will play again this year.
Bird is looking forward and driving for its 12th straight district title and is on pace to earn an automatic bid into the state tournament.
“Despite the success, I try to keep Yahkee grounded,” Robert Johnson said. “Success will continue as long as you work hard.”