POWHATAN –Friday’s matchup featured a storm of yellow flags as the visiting L.C. Bird Skyhawks weathered 165 yards on penalties to fend off the hosting Indians 21-13.
The Skyhawks ultimately won on the strength of their huge start, as they led Powhatan 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Indians’ relentless defense would keep the visitors from adding any more points after that.
“We battled our tails off – we made some great defensive adjustments and battled them tooth-and-nail,” Powhatan head football coach Mike Henderson said after the game. “Our guys played with great composure; those guys had a ton of adversity they had to overcome throughout the game and we just kept battling and kept playing the next play.”
Powhatan defenders Wyatt Lowe and Chase Gayness made 9 tackles each – Lowe delivered 7 solo tackles and 2 for loss and Gayness had 5 solos – and TJ Gates made 8, including 1 for loss. Cam Arnold had 6 tackles and a sack and Tristen Bradley caught an interception.
On a night where special teams endured struggles, Powhatan receiver Tye Morris was a bright spot as he ran forward to haul in a second-half punt return and reel off 45 yards for a touchdown to tighten the game to an 8-point lead as Powhatan’s point-after kick sailed just wide of the upright. Morris also had 2 catches for 45 yards.
Despite their bounce-back effort in the second half, the Indians are still trying to find a way to score on offense. The unit twice drove the ball deep into the Skyhawks’ territory within the final five minutes of game time, but both efforts stalled out on downs, the first time with 3:19 to play at Bird’s 27 yard line, and again with 1:10 remaining at the visitors’ 16, from which point the Skyhawks kneeled twice to secure the victory.
“We have to find a way to score some touchdowns, and we’re struggling with that,” Henderson said. “At some point we’ve got to score.”
After Powhatan won the coin toss and deferred to L.C. Bird, the Skyhawks chose to receive, and before the game could even begin, two penalties – an offsides call and a false start – were assessed against Powhatan’s kicking team. The miscues preceded an incendiary 83-yard kick return up the middle from L.C. Bird’s Justice Eason, who stayed on his feet after contact around midfield to finish-off his blistering dash to the house.
Powhatan’s first two drives on offense stalled out, and Bird let loose a couple of big plays – a 47-yard romp by Kerlin Miles and Quentin Elliott's 38-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Gordon – to sprint out to a 21-0 lead with more than a minute still left in the first quarter.
But after Powhatan’s offense found new life – courtesy of sophomore quarterback Hans Rehme breaking free for a 43-yard touchdown burst around the right side – the defense held Bird scoreless on its next pair of drives, and Powhatan – after getting the ball back at its 23 but also getting moved back behind its 20 on a pass caught in the backfield – moved 80 yards to the Skyhawks’ goal line with the help of 5 personal foul penalties called on the Skyhawks.
But Bird kept the Indians from breaking the plane, and the ball got away from the Indians on the turnover on downs; the Skyhawks held onto the ball through the closing seconds of halftime.
Morris’ punt return accounted for the only points scored by either team in the second half.
Rehme completed 13 of 26 passes for 121 yards, and he rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown. Nate Moyer made 5 catches for 36 yards. Collectively, Powhatan was held to under 100 yards rushing.
The Indians can play with anyone, Coach Henderson said to his players after the game – but they don’t want to just compete, he added.
“We’re a little frustrated and upset, which I want our guys to be – we expected to win,” Henderson said. “You can sit back and say, ‘Hey, it’s nice to compete with Bird…’ but for us out here, with the blood, sweat and tears, we expected to win the game.”
Powhatan (3-2) will look to bounce-back on the road this coming Friday, Oct. 11 at Cosby for a 7:30 p.m. matchup.