2012-11-28 / Sports

Skyhawks can pass, too

By Jim McConnell

L.C. Bird High School quarterback Terrance Ervin talks with teammate Paul Robertson during last Friday’s game against Varina. 
Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer L.C. Bird High School quarterback Terrance Ervin talks with teammate Paul Robertson during last Friday’s game against Varina. Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer David Bedwell guided Henrico High’s football team to the 1999 Division 5 state final behind nearly 3,000 passing yards and 43 touchdowns from record-setting QB Aaron Alexander.

But shortly after he was hired in 2000 to lead the football program at L.C. Bird High, Bedwell recognized that his team’s strengths were a powerful ground attack and defense. With a stable of running backs, putting the ball in the air was risky and unnecessary.

Twelve consecutive Dominion District titles later, the Skyhawks’ offense finally has begun to shed its ultra-conservative image.

Led by senior Paul Robertson, who has rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his lone season as the team’s No. 1 ball carrier, Bird remains primarily a running team. This season, however, the Skyhawks also proved capable of hurting opponents with the pass.

“Being able to throw the ball has been that little something extra that we’ve needed,” Bedwell said last week. “It makes us a little more diverse. We’re able to exploit more parts of the field in different ways.”

Heading into the Central Region playoffs, junior quarterback Terrance Ervin already had broken Bird’s single-season records for passing yards (1,175 yards) and touchdowns (18). He also set the school’s single-game passing record with 233 yards in a rout of rival Thomas Dale High.

In the process, Ervin became the first Bird quarterback ever to pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season and Bedwell’s first quarterback since Alexander to be named to the all-district first team.

Not too shabby for a young man who played wide receiver for Henrico last season and wasn’t sure he’d be attending Bird until two days before the Skyhawks opened their preseason workouts in early August.

“He’s definitely been a big surprise,” Bedwell said last week. “We didn’t know anything about him.”

Ervin, who played in a wide-open, spread offense at Henrico, had heard enough about Bird’s reputation to know he wouldn’t be tossing the ball around on every play as a Skyhawk. But after participating in 7-on-7 workouts at Bird last summer, Ervin believed he’d be able to do more than simply hand off the ball over and over again.

“I knew coach Bedwell wanted to throw the ball,” he said.

A former quarterback at James Madison University, Bedwell doesn’t have anything against putting the ball in the air. The difference this season is that Bird has both a quarterback capable of executing the necessary throws and multiple receivers who can consistently catch the ball.

Instead of being able to station most of their forces near the line of scrimmage to stop the run, opposing defenses now have to respect Bird’s ability to connect on downfield passes.

“That takes a lot of stress off of Paul [Robertson] and opens up lanes for him,” said junior wide receiver Rasheed Worsham. “It makes it a lot tougher for the defense.”

Robertson ran the ball effectively in Bird’s playoff opener Nov. 16 against Hermitage, finishing with 210 yards and a touchdown. But it was a 25-yard touchdown strike from Ervin to senior Zack Levine in the fourth quarter that provided the decisive points in Bird’s 24-20 victory over the previously unbeaten Panthers.

Ervin also passed for 115 yards and two touchdowns in Bird's 36-27 victory over Varina last Friday, helping to deliver the Skyhawks’ first Central Region, Division 6 championship since 2004. His scoring tosses covered 20 yards to Worsham and 34 yards to Darius Hawkins.

“Once we establish the run and the pass in the same game, we’re pretty much unstoppable,” Ervin said.

Hawkins insisted he wasn’t surprised by Bedwell’s willingness to put the ball in the air this season.

“When you have good players, you have to find ways to get them the ball,” he said.

The Skyhawks certainly have done that this season. Worsham leads the team with eight touchdown receptions. Hawkins has six, Shawn Payne three and Levine two.

Levine, the most experienced of Bird’s top four receivers, acknowledged that he never expected the Skyhawks to pass as often as they have.

“I’ve been here since my freshman year and we’ve only run about three different pass plays,” he said. “It seems like we put in a new pass play every week this season.”

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