By ANTHONY STEVENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HONAKER, Va. —
It was an amazing comeback to say the least. A 41-point second half performance propelled Honaker to the state championship game in football.
The Tigers shocked Sussex Central 48-40 in semifinal play at Fuller Field at EMATS Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“It was a heck of a ballgame, if you missed this one you missed a doozy,” Honaker coach Doug Hubbard said. “At halftime we talked about keeping our head up and playing hard. We didn’t really make a lot of adjustments, the biggest thing was getting the kids to believe we could win.”
The huge key to the game for the Tigers was having quarterback Ty Hall under center. Hall had missed the final three quarters of the quarterfinal win over J.I. Burton with a hip injury, but was able to play the entire game against Sussex.
“That’s an athlete and a competitor,” remarked Hubbard. “He’s one of our leaders and he played a tremendous game. He got the ball where it needed to be and he made some big plays.”
Hall was 10-of-20 passing for 229 yards and he threw for four touchdowns and rushed for two others. He was directly involved in six of Honaker’s seven touchdowns.
“This is my biggest win ever, bigger than any of them,” said an elated Hall. “The line was awesome, I had plenty of time to throw the ball.”
With Hall’s effort, he surpassed Honaker legend and Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end Heath Miller in yards passing in a season. Hall has now passed for 1,946 yards this season eclipsing Miller’s mark of 1,872 in the 2000 season.
The two are tied for the touchdown passes in a season, both have thrown 26 TD passes.
Honaker (13-1) trailed 26-7 at halftime. Their only score was after Blake Ray recovered a Sussex Central fumble. It took two plays to score with Hall getting free up the middle on a 10-yard rush. That was most of the Tigers offense in the first half.
With six possessions in the second half, Honaker scored every time they had the football. They took the second half kickoff and put together a 9-play, 57-yard drive. Hall hit Payton Ball with a screen pass and he raced seven yards into the end zone.
“I’m not going to lie, it was looking a little rough for us at halftime,” stated Ball. “If we didn’t score that first possession, I’m afraid that was the game. They had been blitzing their linebackers and Hall just lofted the pass over them. With the wide receivers blocking for me, I could have walked it into the end zone.
“I can remember our eighth grade coach (five years ago) saying no one has as much heart as you guys and it showed today.”
Mackenzie Phillips who was perfect on extra points drilled the kick through the uprights to cut the SC lead to 26-14.
After the score Honaker went for the onside kick. Phillips squibbed a kick and it was recovered by Jordan Hess.
“That’s what Coach Hubbard said at halftime,” Hall said. “We’re going to get the kickoff, score and recover an on-side kick and score again. Unbelievably it worked out for us.”
Sussex Central who had 595 yards of total offense scored their next possession. But Hall answered when he connected with Ray on a 49-yard TD pass.
“That was just an unbelievable catch by Blake,” said Hall. “I saw two defenders and I didn’t believe there was any way he could get the ball. That was a huge play that gave us a lot of momentum. Everything just fell in place after that play.”
Central’s next possession they fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Dakota Stevens. That set up a 5-play, 74-yard drive. Ball scored 13-yard TD run to give Honaker its first lead 34-32.
The Tiger defense then forced the only Sussex Central punt of the game. Hall then tossed a 29-yard TD pass to Cody Lester. Sussex Central scored their final TD on a 12-yard pass from Deqwandre Jones to John Jones. Deqwandre then tossed a pass to Charles Bryant for the two-point conversion to make it a 41-40 game.
Honaker then worked to run out the clock. After three straight running plays Honaker was forced to punt. But Sussex was whistled for a personal foul on the punt to give the Tigers a first down.
“Where did that call come from,” asked Sussex Central coach Curtis Jefferson. “Why do you make a call of that magnitude at that point in the game? I’m not making excuses, Honaker played an excellent football game.”
After a couple more runs, on a 3rd-and-8, Hall surprised everyone with a 32-yard TD pass to Hess to go up 48-40 with one minute to play. Sullivan Central drove deep in Honaker territory. On the final play of the game Deqwandre completed a pass to Trayvond Wooden but he was tackled at the Honaker 3 as time expired.
Honaker will travel to Salem next Saturday for the state title game. They will face George Wythe, a 27-21 winner over Franklin.
Fuller Field at EMATS Stadium
Sussex Central...................12 14 6 8 — 40
Honaker................................0 7 20 21 — 48
SC—Jarrett 5 run (run failed), 8:40
SC—Curley 68 run (run failed), 2:33
HON—Hall 11 run (Phillips kick), 8:37
SC—D. Jones 7 run (pass failed), 5:36
SC—J. Jones 38 pass from D. Jones (D. Jones run), 1:04
HON—Ball 7 pass from Hall (Phillips kick), 8:28
HON—Hall 10 run (Phillips kick), 7:19
SC—D. Jones 14 run (run failed), 3:57
HON—Ray 49 pass from Hall (pass failed), 3:04
HON—Ball 13 run (Phillips kick), 10:22
HON—Lester 29 pass from Hall (Phillips kick), 6:18
SC—J. Jones 12 pass from D. Jones (Bryant pass from D. Jones), 3:45
HON—Hess 32 pass from Hall (Phillips kick), 1:01
First Downs: SC 21, HON 16; Rushes-Yards: SC 44-363, HON 39-108; Passing Yards: SC 232, HON 229; Comp-Att-Int: SC 15-25-0, HON 10-20-1; Fumbles-Lost: SC 4-3, HON 2-0; Penalties-Yards: SC 15-121, HON 8-65; Punts-Average: SC 1-34, HON 2-29.5.