Skyhawks are used to must win situations. In fact, after a week three loss to Dominion District foe Manchester, Bird needed to win out to make the playoffs. They did just that, winning their seventh straight game and bowling over Clover Hill, dispatching the Cavaliers 56-7. It would be another record-breaking night for Johnson, as the senior running back is now the single-season yardage and touchdowns record holder and all-time leading rusher in school history.
“We’ve come together well,” said Johnson. “Before we weren’t really a team, but after our loss [at Manchester], we’ve been a team.”
Bird built and kept a large lead the whole game, with Johnson breaking three records in the first half. Initially, Johnson broke the 2,000 yard barrier for the second straight season and his own record of 2,001 yards in a season. The senior finished the game with 2,194 yards, setting a new single season standard.
“He’s the best running back that I’ve coached since I’ve been here,” said Bird head coach David Bedwell. “I can’t speak to the other running backs before I got here, but he’s a great player and person.”
Early in the second quarter after a 55-yard touchdown run, Johnson became the all-time leading rusher in L.C. Bird history, surpassing Jason Vineyard who had 4,435 yards. Johnson finished the game with 4,507 yards. Additionally, finishing the season with 35 touchdowns, Johnson also set the standard for touchdowns in a single season.
Earlier this season against Midlothian, Johnson broke another record, rushing for 302 yards in a single game. The old record was held by current Atlanta Falcons running back Jason Snelling, who recorded a touchdown in Sunday’s game against the Saints.
“It feels great to have my name among all of the great running backs that have played at Bird,” said Johnson. “I want to thank my offensive line, my family and most of all, God.”
After a fumble by Bird that was picked up and returned 21 yards for Clover Hill by defensive lineman Brandon Tyson to give the Cavaliers the initial lead at 7-0, the onslaught began.
Johnson scored the Skyhawks’ first four touchdowns of the game en route to a 35-point first half. The last touchdown was on a double pass play in which Aaron Fuller threw a lateral to Zack Levine who connected with Lakieth Hopkins for a 47-yard touchdown. Bird led at the half 35-7.
Bird would come out swinging again in the second half, scoring two more touchdowns on the first two drives of the half. The first touchdown came on a perfectly thrown pass from Fuller to Lionel Williams for 62 yards. Fuller then connected with Levine on a 13-yard strike to extend the lead to 49-7. Bird later scored on a three-yard touchdown run by 6’5 345 pound lineman Mason Simpkins, who occasionally gets a carry when Bird has a late lead.
Bird was led by Johnson, who rushed for 228 yards and four touchdowns. Fuller scored two touchdowns through the air; Levine also had two touchdowns- one passing and one receiving. Defensively, senior linebacker Deon Clarke led the way with seven tackles, senior Tyvaughn Kirby-Johnson registered a sack, and sophomore Shawn Payne nabbed his first interception of the season. Clover Hill managed just 37 total yards without injured star quarterback Joel Caleb.
With the win, Bird won their 11th straight Dominion District title. They also earned the right to host Varina next week, game starts at 7:30 p.m. On the other side of the bracket, Thomas Dale blew out Colonial Heights 48-0 Friday to claim the Central District title. They will travel to Hermitage to face the number one-ranked Panthers at 7 p.m.
Both match-ups promise to be close fought games.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” said Bedwell. “You’re just happy to be playing in week eleven of the season,” he continued. “The experts figure[d] out who we play; we’ll be ready.”
Meadowbrook finished their season off on a strong note with a victory over Matoaca, 42-14. Meadowbrook will finish their season at 9-1 and 7-1 in the district, and Matoaca will finish at 5-5 and 4-3 in the district, improving by two games over last season. Both teams missed the playoffs.