‘Dirty’ Bird man­ages muck, routs Free­man

Soggy con­di­tions don’t slow Sky­hawks, who roll up 395 yards of of­fense

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SPORTS - BY WELDON BRAD­SHAW Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent

An­other cold, wet Fri­day night. An­other soggy, slip­pery, messy field.

So what did the L.C. Bird Sky­hawks do?

Sa­vor the ex­pe­ri­ence, of course.

“Bird foot­ball is nasty, dirty, grimy … just like what we just played in,” quar­ter­back Jaden Pay­oute said mo­ments af­ter he and his mud-caked but ec­static team­mates dis­patched Dou­glas Free­man 49-14 on Dutch­man Field in the Class 5, Re­gion B semi­fi­nals.

“Re­gard­less of the weather, field con­di­tions, what­ever … we’ll play.”

And play the Sky­hawks did, to the tune of 395 yards of of­fense on 35 snaps; a tena­cious de­fense that lim­ited Free­man to 143 yards in the first half as they built a 35-7 lead; and fierce spe­cial teams play that re­sulted in a blocked punt that set up an early touch­down.

“We had to make sure we had our foot­ing right each time, ev­ery play,” Pay­oute, a 6-3, 195-pound se­nior, said about the chal­lenges of

com­pet­ing in the quag­mire of muck. “Ev­ery­thing we did … short choppy steps, short choppy steps. Shout out to all my O line too. Good job, boys. They love this type of stuff.”

The Rebels (7-4) took a 7-0 lead on Pat Tay­lor’s 26-yard run and Adam Not­ley’s point-af­ter at 6:22 of the first quar­ter.

The Sky­hawks (9-2) re­sponded with a vengeance.

On their first snap, Pay­oute raced 38 yards around the left side on a quar­ter­back keeper. Four plays later, Tre Ma­son

(18 car­ries for 153 yards) scored the first of his two touch­downs, a 4-yard run off the right side.

Bird was on a roll.

At 1:00 of the first quar­ter, Ma­son ended a three-play, 66-yard drive with a 52-yard dash around right end.

“I couldn’t do any­thing without my O line,” said Ma­son, a 5-8, 175-pound ju­nior. “And I got a pair of screw-in cleats. It felt like I couldn’t slip on the field. It was like the field was dry.”

Up 14-7, the Sky­hawks scored two quick touch­downs thanks to op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated by their spe­cial teams.

Steve Jor­dan blocked a Free­man punt, and Chris Barfield re­cov­ered it at the Rebels 7. Fol­low­ing a sack and a false-start penalty, Pay­oute com­pleted a 15-yard TD pass to Mykeal An­der­son on a fourth-and-goal.

Free­man’s next drive ended with a mis­han­dled snap on a punting sit­u­a­tion, Ahmed Couch re­cov­ered on the 25, and three plays later fresh­man run­ning back Ra­mon Brown (6 car­ries for 161 yards) scored on a 4-yard run

6:33 from half­time.

“We hus­tled to the ball,” said Couch, a se­nior de­fen­sive end who re­cov­ered an­other fum­ble in the third quar­ter. “Even on a muddy field, we still held our ground.”

Spelling Ma­son in the third quar­ter, Brown scored twice on runs of 50 and 58 yards. Mar­cus Chavez drilled 7 of 7 ex­tra points.

Free­man’s fi­nal TD came on a 9-yard run by Pat Tay­lor at 2:34 of the third pe­riod to end a 14play, 59-yard drive.

“I’m proud of our kids and how they played,” Bird coach Troy Tay­lor said. “They played hard tonight. We al­ways tell the guys, don’t worry about the field con­di­tions. Worry about the things we can con­trol.”

MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

L.C. Bird’s Tre Ma­son runs for a first-quar­ter touch­down against Dou­glas Free­man. Ma­son fin­ished with 153 yards rush­ing on 18 car­ries and two touch­downs. The Sky­hawks led 35-7 at half­time and rolled to a vic­tory against the Rebels in the Class 5, Re­gion B semi­fi­nals.

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