CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - It’s been recognized by the Great American Rivalry Series as one of the best high school football rivalries in the nation, and on Friday L.C. Bird and Thomas Dale renew acquaintances as the Battle of Chester takes the stage in our On the Sidelines Game of the Week.
“You’ve got guys in the community like Troy (Taylor) and myself who both played in this rivalry,” said Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker. “My dad played at Dale, my grandfather played at Dale.”
Tucker and Bird head coach Troy Taylor are just two examples of guys who know the gravity of this backyard brawl. Tucker and Taylor faced off head-to-head on the field in this match-up, and know better than most that for 48 hours, at least on the football field, this will be a community divided.
“They played on the same little league teams and when they come to high school, one side of Harrowgate Road goes to Bird, one side goes to Thomas Dale, and that’s why the rivalry is so good, because they live in such close proximity,” Tucker added.
“Through the years the great coaches that were there (Thomas Dale) like Vic Williams and Kevin Tucker, and the great coaches that were here at Bird, and the great teams that both schools had... it’s been a great rivalry,” observed Taylor.
Thomas Dale senior wide receiver Antonio Goins recognizes that the rivalry has been a little bit one-sided lately, and hopes to be part of the group that starts to balance the scales.
"If I’m going to be honest, they’ve been up on us the past couple of years. It kinda leaves a chip on our shoulder."
Goins has a point. The Skyhawks have won ten of the last eleven meetings, and 14 of the last 16. Thomas Dale’s only wins in that span came during its 2009 playoff run to the state championship and in the 2016 regular season. This year, the Knights come in boasting some experience and a lot of talent, while the 2019 Skyhawks are younger, but no matter what the roster or the records say, both Bird and the Knights know what’s coming their way.
“They’re loaded,” remarked Taylor. “They always are. Big school, a lot of great players.”
“They’re a lot like the Highland Springs, the Hermitages, the Thomas Dales, the Dinwiddies, the Hopewells,” said Tucker. "It seems like they’re just reloading every year.
Friday night marks the season opener for L.C. Bird, while the Knights kicked off their schedule with a 58-0 win over Cosby this past week. Even though it’s early in the year, a victory in this rivalry showdown could go a long way.
“It would just set the tone for the season,” said Skyhawks’ senior wide receiver Elijah Rivers. “We could say that we beat them, but we just take every game the same, one week at a time.”
“I believe we are the best team in the state right now,” Goins said, “and I beleive we can get it done.”
Thomas Dale and L.C. Bird kick off at 7:00 on Friday evening on the Skyhawks’ home field.
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