Knights rushing game pounds Warriors

Thomas Dale and Matoaca has what could be described as a ‘good-side rivalry.’ Always a hard fought game in the Central District, both sides are always ready to play each other. The two teams, both at 1-2, took their share of close losses in the early weeks but came together to put on a show for the crowd that stuck around after a 90-minute lightning delay as Thomas Dale edged Matoaca 27-26.

“We were able to throw the ball well and got good protection in the first half,” said Matoaca head coach Pat Manuel. “But it’s the penalties that killed us tonight, a little lopsided in my opinion.”

After a long fruitless drive to start the game, Matoaca got the game’s first points a different way. Thomas Dale quarterback Quentin Taylor threw a ball that was picked off by sophomore Khalil Coleman for a 30-yard interception return to give Matoaca the lead at 7-0 after an extra point.

However, Taylor made up for the pick on the second play of Dale’s next drive as he rebounded to rip off a 54-yard touchdown to make it 7-6 Matoaca.

Matoaca’s Tevin Johnson returned the subsequent kickoff 68 yards to set up an early second quarter score for the Warriors. After converting a first down, Birdsong dropped back to pass while eluding pressure from the Knights. As he was being brought down, he got a throw off to Johnson for a nine-yard touchdown pass, extending the lead to 14-6.

“Birdsong is a tremendous athlete,” said Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker. “If you give him an inch, he takes a mile.”

And then the lightning came. By rule, if lightning is seen at a game, officials must stop play and cannot resume until there has been no sighting of lightning for 30 minutes. This timer was reset twice, but at about quarter past nine, play was ready to resume.

The Knights, who were driving before the delay, picked up where they left off, as D.J. Reid scored minutes after play was resumed on a 13-yard run. A failed conversion attempt left Dale down 14-12 at the half.

After a fine defensive effort by Matoaca to stop Thomas Dale, the Warriors marched down the field to score again on the strength of two long completions – to Johnson and Kevin Garber. Those plays, coupled with a few runs, set up a two-yard touchdown run by transfer SaQuan Franklin-Scott. The Warriors led 20-12.

The Knights fought back to tie the game on a grind-it-out style drive that ended in the same result as their previous scoring drive: another touchdown run by Reid. A two-point conversion tied the game at 20.

Birdsong and the Warriors answered. Early in the fourth quarter, off a tipped pass, Johnson made the catch and ran for a 50-yard score to give Matoaca the lead on a bang-bang play at 26-20. The Knights answered on the next drive, as Reid ripped off a 64-yard run to start things off, and scored on a 4th and 2 from eight yards out to give Dale the lead at 27-26.

“Things would have been a little different if I didn’t convert that fourth down,” said Reid. “Hard work starts in practice and it showed for our o-line.”

Matoaca threatened, but Thomas Dale’s Darius McKinney ended one drive with an interception, and penalties doomed the Warriors again as their last drive of the game officially ended as Birdsong was sacked by senior Jimil Perkins after penalties negated all of the yards gained on the last drive.

Thomas Dale was led by Reid, who finished the game with 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 21 attempts. Birdsong, who committed to James Madison this week, led the Warriors with 182 yards in the air and two touchdowns.

“D.J. Reid played a [heck] of a ballgame,” said Tucker. “He played well despite not having a full practice week. And our offensive line did an outstanding job.”

With the loss, Matoaca fell to 1-3, with their lone win coming against Manchester in week two. Thomas Dale improved to 2-2, and 2-0 in the Central District after defeating Petersburg 23-0 last week.

Other scores included: Meadowbrook defeating Hopewell 28-13 to win their first district game, and L.C. Bird responded nicely after being upset defeating James River 56-7.

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