By Matthew Yoder
As Arcadia thundered past Washington 59-0 last Friday night, it’s difficult to separate your thoughts from what could have been this season, if not for a combined six-point difference in two losses to Nandua. Those games are in the books, a thing of the past, and the Firebirds’ effort against the Jaguars offered a strong glimpse into the future of a burgeoning program.
Last Friday was homecoming. In addition to halftime festivities, the Firebirds added some touches to make the occasion special. Players entered the field at the beginning of the game and second half through a National Guard tunnel, brandishing both the American flag and that of their school. Demonta Copes led the charge through billowing smoke. The newly crowned region 2A champion cheerleading squad rode the wave of its well-earned victory, and the cheerleaders increased their spirited effort as the temperature plunged.
Finally, Sgt. Drake from the Virginia Army National Guard set up a mini-cannon, ready to be fired for every Firebird touchdown. It quickly became clear that Sgt. Drake would have to be an active participant to keep up with the flurry of Arcadia scores.
The Firebirds received the ball first and opened with good field position. Tiair Bibbins ran the ball on three consecutive plays of 14, 4, and 5 yards, setting up an early third and short. Lethon Williams pushed the line, extending the drive, and Brandon Bibbins seemed to set the tone for the evening on the ensuing play. He took the handoff, ran up the middle into a wall of defenders, but drug more than half of Washington’s defense for 25 yards, all the way to the 5-yard line. From there, it took until fourth and goal but Tiair Bibbins scampered into the end zone. The cannon was not yet known to everyone in attendance, therefore stunned the crowd, but it would soon become background noise amidst the entertaining action.
Lineman Bobby Harmon was on kickoff duty for the Firebirds. He handled the duty expertly, and it’s worth mentioning the pursuit of Arcadia on special teams all night. Delquan Fitchett, La’Kuan Mcroy, and Jaden Harmon all made great tackles and handled their excitement professionally.
Fitchett made the first such tackle on Washington’s opening drive, pinning them deep. The Jaguars led on offense with a flea-flicker pass from Jahmir Woolford to Nazier Spence. It was a jump ball pass down the Jaguars’ sideline with Spence just beating Tiair Bibbins to the ball. The play totaled 52 yards. However, that proved to be their only distinguishable play on the evening. From there, the Firebirds defense clamped down, and four plays later a sack by Brandon Bibbins on Zavian Hall forced a loss of downs.
Arcadia needed only two plays to extend their lead. Tiair Bibbins found space down the Firebirds’ sideline after cutting through the hole and sprinted 76 yards to the end zone with no defenders in sight.
Four plays into its second drive, Washington fumbled and Jaden Hope recovered the ball for Arcadia. Just as Bibbins had stretched down the sidelines minutes earlier, now William Scarborough followed suit. He tiptoed, then created distance en route to a 41-yard score. Robert Sterling powered up the middle completing the 2-point conversion, making the score 21-0.
All half, assistant coach Darrell Biddle read the Jaguars’ offensive schemes expertly, calling out to his players the nature of the play they faced.
“It’s up the gut, get there,” Biddle would say. The Firebirds then approached the run with defensive determination.
On the third play of Washington’s third drive, Biddle anticipated what was about to occur.
“It’s a pass, be ready for the pass,” said Biddle.
Scarborough responded, stepping into the passing lane, intercepting Hall’s pass. He returned the ball all the way to Washington’s six-yard line.
Lethon Williams benefitted on the next play, taking the pitch from Collin Marshall and walking into the end-zone. The game was 27-0 with 48 seconds to go in the first quarter. Arcadia’s players provided lightning quick speed, the National Guard provided thunderous noise, and the blend was purely entertaining for Firebird fans.
The second quarter opened with the defense converging on Hall in the end zone for a safety, with Kamron Downing leading the charge. Another safety added points to the board for Arcadia after a failed snap on a punt attempt for Washington. To add injury to insult, Hope sped past Washington’s special teams defenders, returning the free kick for a touchdown.
The defense continued to flex their might for Arcadia. Ryan Rose helped bolster a robust defensive line, and smiling on the sidelines he spoke to the play of his teammates.
“We’ve got some strong tackling from this defense,” said Rose. Much credit, too, goes to the work put in all season by the coaching staff. The numbers prove what has been evident on the field all season.
“We’re sixth in the state for defense in points allowed,” said coach Dan Macca. Arcadia added another score on offense going into halftime, following a 60-yard touchdown run from a direct snap to Williams. The game was 45-0.
Head coach Alan hall stood beneath the impressive scoreboard, happy with the now, contemplative about the past, but eager to present the future.
“I’m gonna play all JV on offense in the second half, let’s see what they got,” said Hall.
What they brought was something I hope fans stayed for. The junior varsity team, who has had great success themselves this year, posted two touchdowns on Washington’s first-team defense. They appeared loose in the sense that they were wild, eager, and full of fresh legs. They controlled the game clock. Nasir Dorsey scored the first touchdown on a beautiful 25-yard run. He suffered a significant gash to his forearm on the play, but while getting bandaged he was nonetheless smiling as wide as one possibly could.
“It feels good,” said Dorsey.
On the prospect of stepping up to contribute next year, as the team looks to replace a host of seniors, Dorsey remarked, “Yes sir.” Quarterback Brock Cooper also scored on a run, driving the score to 59-0, and giving a glimpse into what next August might look like under center for the Firebirds.
As the clock sped through the second half, one can’t help but wonder what could have been if not for defeats to Nandua. That chapter is closed, however, and what remains is one last game at home versus Northampton Nov. 8. For many great players it will be their last time suiting up, and potentially for others, like Dorsey and Cooper, it may be another opportunity to give spectators a hint of what’s to come.