This year’s Byrd team won’t ever be called flashy or explosive, thanks in part to some unfortunate injuries to its best athletes.
As a result, the Yellow Jackets’ (3-5) success depends on consistently solid execution and efficiency. They found enough for a big second quarter but hardly impressed coach Mike Suggs on both counts in a 28-6 win over perhaps even more injury-depleted Green Oaks (1-7) Thursday night at Lee Hedges Stadium.
“We didn’t take care of our business mentally,” Suggs said. “We were flat coming into it and it’s disappointing to take a step backwards.”
The slow start to the game included a fumble on Byrd’s opening drive, highlighting one of the biggest problems this year for its typically dominant rushing attack. A few holes began to open up later in a scoreless first quarter, but Green Oaks’ defense made sure nothing came easy for the Yellow Jackets.
Bailey O’Byrne finally broke through for a one-yard touchdown run on his 12th carry and the senior fullback found a lot more space for a season-long 62-yard run on Byrd’s next offensive play. Although Damien Crawford caught him from behind to set up Javien Wilson’s 17-yard touchdown run, O’Byrne’s 128 yards and two touchdowns in the first half provided a definite bright spot.
“The holes were great,” said O’Byrne, who finished with 134 yards on 19 carries. “The offensive linemen were doing their thing and everybody was just trying to get it together and keep going good.”
However, he sensed some complacency after halftime, even though the Jackets managed to take advantage of a short field with Lawson Jackson’s 28-yard touchdown run. Suggs praised his team’s effort but wanted to see much more continued progression in a third straight win.
On the other side, Green Oaks coach Curtis Evans saw plenty of positives for his young, inexperienced group. The Giants’ defense occasionally got into the Byrd backfield and senior wide receiver/safety Zelanz French looked good in his debut at quarterback before leaving the game for good with an ankle injury at the end of an impressive 32-yard run in the second quarter.
Backup Ellis Alexander returned to the role he lost a week ago and the sophomore showed some great poise against a formidable Byrd pass rush to complete 14-of-31 passes for 128 yards. Those numbers could have been better without a few drops, but Damien Crawford did his part with 98 yards on 8 catches, including a 41-yard reception to set up his one-yard touchdown.
“Damien brings a lot of explosion to our offense,” Evans said. “We’ve kind of been holding him back a little (in terms of) playing both ways because he’s our shutdown corner. We’ve kind of said, ‘hey, it’s the end of the season, you’re a junior so we’ll go ahead and unleash you on both sides of the ball.’”
Evans praised the way his team fought hard all night, amassing 226 total yards of offense and gaining some much-needed confidence. He sensed the players will be motivated to make a push for an unlikely playoff spot in its final two District 1-3A games against North Webster and BTW.
Byrd won’t have to worry about missing the playoffs since the LHSAA classified it as Select this season instead of 5A. However, the Yellow Jackets’ remaining regular season games against Airline and No. 5 Evangel won’t be as forgiving if they continue to make the same mistakes.
“That’s why it’s so frustrating as a coach,” Suggs said. “Because you know you get away with it in this ballgame, but you’re not going to get away with it next week.”