By LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HAYSI, Va. —
Galax made the Haysi defense put in a little overtime. Haysi made Galax pay up with a series of big plays.
The Tigers punished the Maroon Tide with big plays on offense, defense and special teams and withstood a workman-like effort from Galax star Steven Peoples in a 40-25 win in the second round of the Group 1A West playoffs Saturday at Sandlick Elementary School.
Jeffrey Bowen scored three touchdowns and Tyler Mullins scored two to help Haysi (12-0) offset a 341-yard, four TD effort from Peoples, who touched the ball on 48 of the Maroon Tide's 64 plays from scrimmage.
The Tigers earned a home date with J.I. Burton in the state quarterfinals with at least one big, critical play in each quarter. Two pass interference calls on Galax led to the first score, an 8-yard TD pass from Jalen Sykes to Mullins midway through the opening period.
Near the end of the quarter a 58-yard pass from Sykes to Gauge Hill set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Jeffrey Bowen that staked Haysi to a 14-0 first quarter lead.
In the second quarter Peoples scored from 28 yards out. Tanner O'Quinn then returned the kickoff 56 yards to set up another Haysi score. Five plays later Sykes, who threw for 170 yards, scored from two yards out on a bootleg to give the Tigers a 20-6 advantage.
After failing to score after gaining a first down at the Galax 14-yard line just before halftime O'Quinn, who finished with 98 return yards, delivered a perfect onside kick that eventually led to a 26-yard TD run by Bowen. It extended Haysi's 20-12 halftime lead to 28-12.
Peoples and Galax dominated the ball the rest of the third quarter to get within 28-25 but Haysi went back to work, getting a 65-yard
touchdown pass from Sykes to Mullins with 9:37 remaining in the game. Moments later Mullins recovered a Galax fumble at the Tigers' 20-yard line and returned it to midfield. Out of a wildcat formation Bowen ran the ball three times and scored his third touchdown of the game from nine yards out to give Haysi a 40-25 cushion at the 4:25 mark.
"I told the guys we're gonna have to score a lot of touchdowns to win this," Haysi coach James Colley said. "The kids came out and got that onside kick and momentum shifted and Tyler Mullins jumped on the ball. Then we hung in there and played tough. A lot of kids made some big plays for us."
Peoples was a one-man show and a great one for the Maroon Tide. The rugged, 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior ran the ball 46 times for 341 yards and logged 27 carries in the second half alone. He scored on runs of 28 and 26 yards, respectively, in the first half.
He carried the ball on eight plays of a 10-yard, 79-yard scoring drive in the third period, capping it with a 25-yard TD run.
After a successful onside kick by Galax, Peoples was at it again, running the ball six times, including a 17-yard touchdown run with
10:43 remaining that got the Maroon Tide within three points. The fumble on the next Galax series was costly, but the clock was also
unkind to the Maroon Tide, which needed sustained drives to score.
"We're pretty one-dimensional in what we can do," said Galax coach Mark Dixon. "We're young in a lot of spots. I didn't really want to
get out of what we do, we're stuck with some things.
"(Peoples) is a great player. That's the way we've been all year. I should have done a better job developing a passing game to help us
Haysi's defensive game plan was to make Peoples work and limit big plays. His longest run of the day was his 28-yard scoring run.
"I knew we just had to play smart," said Haysi linebacker Tristan Yates, who led the Tigers with 22 total tackles. "We stuck to our game plan. We didn't give up the big plays, we gave up the small ones. When we hit Peoples we just always wanted to wrap him up."
Galax ran 18 consecutive plays from scrimmage before and after its onside kick and had the ball for 25 of 28 plays at one point. Haysi's defenders looked tired but certainly didn't play like it.
"It hurts, but I don't think any of us were tired," said Mullins, who finished with nine tackles. "It was just hold on to (Peoples). We knew it was going to him. We just tried and tried."
"I thought we did a good job of not letting (Peoples) get a big play," added Haysi defensive coordinator Jason Edwards. "Little by little, make them have some long, sustained drives. He had a lot of yards and he had a lot of carries but I thought we did a good job of making him earn it.
"The guys had a lot of heart. They knew what they had to do and they followed the game plan to a 'T'.
“They were prepared for it and they took it as a challenge. They looked forward to it as an opportunity."
Bowen, playing on an ankle he injured the day before the Tigers' first round playoff win over Eastside, gained most of his 147 rushing yards in the second half and went over the 2,000 yard mark for the season.
"I was just hoping we could get through the first half with him," Colley said. "With his ankle, he's probably about 80 percent today.
Once we got to the second half I told him now is the time."
Peoples went over the 3,000 yard mark for the season and earned the respect of Bowen, among others.
"Our defense was great," said Bowen, who was in on 14 tackles. "Peoples is an awesome running back. He's got an awesome future in
front of him. I just hope number 55 is all right."
Number 55 is Galax lineman Cross Gonzalez, who suffered a neck injury with 5:45 remaining in the game. According to Haysi rescue squad personnel Gonzalez was alert and moving his legs, but he was reportedly taken to Bristol (Tenn.) Regional Medical Center by a
Virginia State Police Medflight helicopter as a precaution.
"I don't want to say too much, I just pray that he's OK," Dixon said moments after the game. "I don't know too much about the situation. I'm just praying, we're all just praying.
"The people at Haysi were wonderful. We have heavy hearts right now waiting to hear, that's kind of where our minds are right now."
Galax............... 6 6 6 7 — 25
Haysi..............14 14 6 6 — 40
H-Mullins 8 pass from Sykes (T. Yates pass from Sykes)
H-Bowen 3 run (run failed)
G-Peoples 28 run (kick failed)
H-Sykes 2 run (pass failed)
G-Peoples 26 run (run failed)
H-Bowen 26 run (T. O'Quinn pass from Sykes)
G-Peoples 25 run (run failed)
G-Peoples 17 run (Sanchez kick)
H-Mullins 65 pass from Sykes (run failed)
H-Bowen 9 run (run failed)
First Downs: G 20, H 16; Rushes-Yards: G 55-351, H 31-190; Passing
Yards: G 32, H 170; Comp-Att-Int: G 4-9-1, H 6-21-0; Fumbles-Lost: G
2-1, H 1-0; Penalties-Yards: G 7-71, H 9-55; Punts-Average: G 2-27.0,