By ANTHONY STEVENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HONAKER, Va. —
The winner plays for the state title, the loser goes home with their hopes for a state championship ended.
The Honaker Tigers (12-1) will host the Sussex Central Tigers (12-1) today at Fuller Field in the Group A, Division state semifinals. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
Both teams have reached this level by playing good football. Honaker's lone loss came to Group AA Richlands (35-0) in September. Sussex Central's only loss came to top-ranked Franklin (62-30) in October.
Both teams have won 12 games in impressive fashion.
"They are very quick, a fast, good football team," Honaker head coach Doug Hubbard said. "They are athletic with good team speed. We will have our hands full."
The last time a team from Russell County faced Sussex Central was in December of 1991. Lebanon made the almost eight-hour trip up the road for the state championship game. Sussex Central won in a rout 56-7.
They also won a state title in 2003, so they would have to be considered a football power.
"They are run oriented," Hubbard said. "It's the same type of offense they used back in 1991. Nothing has changed. They have wide splits on the offensive line and like to run the football."
Honaker has dominated this season with the play of the lines. Joshua Dye, Colby Vanover, Dakota Stevens, Peyton Stevens and Chandler Miller on the offensive line and Deandre Williams, Miller, Blake Ray and Payton Ball on the defensive line have dominated games.
"We have to control the line of scrimmage," remarked Hubbard. "The offensive line has to get on their blocks and stay on them. The defensive line will have to create havoc for us to win. Both fronts will have to play well."
Honaker’s line will likely pose a big problem for Sussex.
"They are physical and just huge up front," said Sussex Central coach Curtis Jefferson. "They are well-disciplined, I don't know how we will match up with their physicality. It will be a daunting task to get that done."
Only three teams Sussex has defeated had a winning record, Colonial Beach, Parry McCluer and Lunenburg Central. Darian Curley and Michael Jarrett are the key running backs for the Tigers.
The Tigers graduated 22 football players last season, so they are a very young football team. Sussex Central has scored as many as 74, 68, 56 and 50 points this season. Other than the 62 allowed against Franklin, the most points scored against the Tigers this season was 19.
"This bunch has shown a lot of heart and character," Jefferson said. "We will have to maintain the ball to keep it away from Honaker. They are capable of scoring on any play."
Honaker may or may not have the services of senior quarterback Ty Hall. Hall suffered a hip injury last week against J.I. Burton and missed three quarters of the game.
He will likely be a game time decision.
If Hall is unable to go, Casey Dye (5-10, 147, so.) will man the controls. As they have all season, Honaker will run a bunch of backs at Sussex Central.
Payton Ball, Cody Lester, Austin Smith and Blake Ray will all get significant carries. The Tigers have scored as much as 55, 49 and 43 (twice) points, and surrendered 21 or fewer in all 12 of their wins.
It should be an interesting afternoon to see which team of Tigers comes out on top.
"We have to control them with our defense and not give up the big play," Hubbard said. "We need to control the football and keep getting first downs. We also have to score when we have the opportunity.
"The turnover battle in games like this is huge. Whoever wins that might get the upper hand."
Today’s winner will play either George Wythe or Franklin for the Division 1 state title next Saturday in Salem, Va.