By ANTHONY STEVENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HONAKER, Va. —
For the first time in 12 years Honaker will be playing for the state football title.
Honaker last played for a state championship with Heath Miller at the controls when they fell to King William 25-15 at Liberty University in 2000.
This will be the second time the Tigers have ever played for a state title in football.
Honaker will face George Wythe out of the Hogoheegee District today in an all-Southwest Virginia title game. Kickoff will be at noon at Salem Stadium.
Honaker (13-1) has lost once, a 35-0 decision against Richlands. George Wythe (13-1) also has a loss, falling to Floyd County 28-24.
“I think any coach would tell you it’s an honor to be at this point,” said Honaker coach Doug Hubbard. “We want to win the title. Getting there is great, but not many people remember the runner-up. We’re not satisfied just to get here.”
The Tigers will be facing stiff competition in George Wythe. It will be the third time the Maroons have played for the state title. George Wythe won their only state title in football in 2002 when they defeated Buckingham County 26-12 in Division 2. They played for the Group AA championship in 1983 but lost to Courtland 14-7.
“They are a quality football team,” Hubbard said. “Coach (H.S.) Ingo and myself are good friends and in a sense that makes it pretty special.
“They run out of a pistol offense with double wings. They have an explosive offense and a defense that shut out Clintwood. They beat the one-seed in the Eastern Section in Franklin. It will take a complete game effort from us.”
Ingo was a lineman on that first team from George Wythe to play for the state title in 1983.
“We’re very thrilled to be here,” said Ingo. “We set this as a goal when I took over the program four years ago. We look forward to the challenge as we play a very good Honaker football team.”
George Wythe will try to run the football. Quarterback Jordan Byrd has completed 51-of-88 passes for 773 yards in 14 games. In the 27-21 win over Franklin County, Byrd completed the one pass he attempted for four yards.
“Byrd is a first-year starter that has played very well for us,” Ingo said. “We’ve actually thrown the football more this year, than in years past. But we’re a running team, blessed with very good backs.”
Their ground game is impressive with two 1,000 yard rushers. George Wythe has rushed for almost 4,400 yards this season Dominique Crockett has accumulated 1,320 yards rushing with 23 touchdowns, while sophomore Trey Skeens has 1,238 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns, including three scored in the win over Franklin.
Fullback Justin Snavely has rushed for 615 yards with five TDs.
Honaker has rushed for almost 3,800 yards and send a variety of backs at a defense. Ty Hall, Payton Ball, Blake Ray, Cody Lester, Casey Dye, Austin Smith and Jared Shelton all carry the football behind an outstanding offensive line and each back brings something different to the table.
Hall is also a record breaking quarterback, having broken Miller’s season passing mark set in 2000 with 1,976 yards. He has also equaled touchdown passes of that same campaign with 26.
“You have to try to control the other teams running game,” remarked Hubbard. “This could be a bruising game. We need to stop the George Wythe backs before they get started. Our front eight has their work cut out for them. I know they will give us a great effort.”
Snavely also a linebacker is one of the Maroons leading defenders. Defensive end Hardy Lester and free safety Jalen France are also strong on defense. Defensive back Isaac Baltazaar has six interceptions for George Wythe.
This is one of the most talented teams ever at Honaker. That should make for an interesting contest on Saturday.
“We’ve had some great individual kids and some really good football teams, but depth wise and at the skill positions, this bunch is awfully good,” said Hubbard. “One of the best things about this group is they enjoy being around each other. They are a very athletic group and a lot of fun to be around.”
Only one team will bring home the hardware. The key to the game is very simple.
“It all comes down to blocking and tackling,” stated Ingo. “We have to get off their linemen and get to their backs. Of course limit turnovers, they can be costly.”