Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

November 30, 2013

Sykes tosses 5 TDs, Haysi reaches state semifinals

HAYSI, Va. — Jalen Sykes has been good all season long. Saturday he was even better.

Sykes threw five touchdown passes to lead Haysi to a 36-12 win over J.I. Burton in the Group 1A West state quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Sandlick Elementary School.

Haysi earned a school-record 13th victory, one that sends the Tigers into the state semifinals for just the fourth time in school history and for the first time in eight years.

The Tigers (13-0) will host Altavista thanks to a defense that gave up just 65 yards from the middle of the second quarter on, the running of Jeffrey Bowen, who rushed for 189 yards on 23 carries, and the efficient work of Sykes.

After completing just one of his first four throws the junior quarterback completed 15 of his next 18 passes in leading an offense that amassed 423 total yards despite possessing the ball for just 1:09 in the first quarter.

"We knew it was a big game and everyone had some nerves, myself included," Sykes said. "I was just as bad as any of them. Then we got a couple of stops on defense and everyone just kind of slowly calmed down and got into the flow of the game."

Sykes engineered three second-quarter scoring drives and one key second half drive that came after Burton trimmed a 22-6 halftime deficit to 22-12 on a 27-yard TD run by Kelly Thompson.

In the third quarter Haysi went on a 14-play, 69-yard drive, its longest of the game. Sykes completed all five of his passing attempts on that series, including his second TD pass of the day to Bowen that gave the Tigers a 28-12 lead with 11:03 remaining in the game. Sykes finished his day 16-of-22 passing overall for 180 yards, with no interceptions.

"Jalen stepped up big today," Haysi coach James Colley said. "He stepped up and showed the confidence that a quarterback needs.

"He made some big throws. He was going out of the pocket on that last TD, it was our scramble drill and he found the guy wide open in the end zone and it was just an awesome throw."

Three of Sykes' touchdown passes came on third down and a 1-yard scoring strikes to fullback Tristan Yates came on fourth down as the Tigers took what the Raiders defense gave them.

Tanner O'Quinn caught a series of short passes and, despite double coverage, finished with seven receptions for 59 yards. That included a 14-yarder that capped the scoring with 5:52 remaining.

"We found some things we could do," said Colley. "They left Tristan wide open a couple of times and we took advantage of it.

"It takes a good offensive line and a good offensive team to be able to do that, just like with the screen pass to (Bowen). He made a heck of a run on the screen pass. It was a good effort out of the guys."

Sykes completed passes to six different receivers, including five to his running backs. Three of them went for touchdowns, with Bowen hauling in two, including an 11-yarder that answered Burton's first score.

"We knew (our backs) could catch all year long," Sykes added. "They're really dangerous when you get them out in space. They were open today so we kept going back to them."

Thompson, who finished with 57 rushing and 38 receiving yards, scored both Burton touchdowns. He caught a 22-yard scoring strikes from Tra Adams that tied the score at 6-6 at the 6:42 mark of the second period.

Whatever momentum that gave the Raiders it dissipated quickly as Bowen raced 69 yards on the next snap from scrimmage to set up his first touchdown reception. It also proved the senior standout was completely over his recent ankle injury.

"I'm good to go," he said with a smile. “I had great blocking all the way down the field."

Bowen batted down an Adams pass on third down to force a Burton punt on the next series and Sykes later delivered his fourth-down TD pass to Yates with eight seconds left before halftime.

"That was huge. That was a great play," J.I. Burton coach Jimbo Adams said. "In every ball game, I tell the kids all the time, you're going to have six or seven plays that determine the game.

"You play for the privilege to make one of those plays and daggone it (Haysi) made them. It wasn't for a lack of effort or a lack of toughness on our part, it was execution on their part."

Haysi lost a fumble on the second half kickoff and lost a fumble on its first second half possession, but made another important defensive stop to regain the momentum. The Tigers scored on their next two possessions.

"We could have easily folded the tent (after the two fumbles), but we decided to do what we do best," Colley said. "We got right back with it on offense and we start shutting them down on defense and put some points on the board.

"You have momentume swings. We got momentum back on our side and they never did have any more big runs or any more big passes or anything like that, and we were still moving the ball on offense."

The game was on the verge of getting ugly late in the second half with the teams combining for a half-dozen personal foul or unsportsmanlike penalties, including four on J.I. Burton. Colley had no comment on the calls, but Adams did.

"We had way too many penalties," Adams said. "I don't mean this as bashing officials, but it is what it is, it was a very poorly officiated ball game. You get a game of this magnitude, you check things and you get things in order at the first of the game. You don't let things escalate and get out of control at the end of the game.

"It's sad that it happened and it happened because of too much trash talking. Pushing and playing chippy was allowed in the first half and you saw what manifested itself in the second half as a result. This crew was being evaluated (today) and I'd say it will be a while before they work a state (playoff ) game again.

"Now, with that said I think that Haysi has got an excellent football team. Give them credit. They made some plays down around the goal line that we had good coverage on and they made great plays. The best team won today. They've waited a long time for this. My hat's off to James and good luck to him next week."

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