By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
SALEM, Va. —
To Doug Hubbard, getting to the state championship game and losing it is almost as bad as not getting there at all.
He should know.
George Wythe won a game of field position and the Group A, Division 1 state championship with a hard fought 17-10 victory over Honaker on a sunny, but windy Saturday afternoon at Salem Stadium in front of a large crowd from two communities located about two hours from each other.
Hubbard, who is in his 30th season at Honaker, led theTigers to the state championship game in 2000 with Heath Miller at the helm, and also fell short in that one.
“It just leaves you with such an empty feeling when you had a chance in a ball game that could have went either way, a play here or there.” Hubbard said. “It is just one of those situations where when the kids get a chance and everybody gets a chance to reflect back and take the emotions out of it, they will realize that have had a wonderful year, a very special year, but that may take a day or two.”
It was the Hardy Lester-led George Wythe defense that shut down the Tigers, forcing five second half punts, while an attempt at a sixth was muffed, with the final possession resulting in Darnell Williams sacking Ty Hall on the final play of the game at their the Honaker 13.
Honaker finished with 155 yards on offense, and 137 of that game in the opening half.
“We have played defense well the whole playoffs,” said George Wythe head coach H.S. Ingo, who’s Maroons won five games in the second years of the sectional playoffs in Virginia. “Our defensive staff has done a tremendous job.
“It was a complete staff effort. We always work well on our P’s and Q’s on defense. I was taught you win with defense and the kicking game and that is what we emphasize. We work defense every day and we work kicking game every day and here in week 15 that is what paid off.
“We have kids that believe in what we do, believe in our system and they got after it.”
George Wythe settled for a field position game in the second half, and it eventually worked out for the Maroons.
“This wind plays tricks down here with the ball and obviously when you get the wind you want to take advantage of it,” Ingo said. “That is what we tried to do, play field position.
“We knew we could hold them a little bit and they knew they could hold us, and our backs did a great job of getting us some first downs when we need to and moving the ball down here and scoring. That is what it is about, taking advantage of the opportunities and we took advantage of them.”
A punt by Andrew Storms late in the third quarter flew into the end zone, but a Honaker player was called for a chop block, moving the ball back from the 20 to the 5. The Tigers lost a yard on three plays and punted, giving the Maroons the ball at the 41.
“I still have yet to figure out the ridiculous call down here in the end zone,” Hubbard said. “They said my return man came up and made contact with that guy, but it looked like my return guy was just coming off the field and he hit him. I thought the flag was on them, but I thought that was a really crucial part of the ball game…
“We them good field position and they got a touchdown. We stopped them for the biggest part of the day, but just that one series there we struggled.”
George Wythe (14-1), which won the state championship game without completing a pass, ran for 257 yards, led by Dominique Crockett with 96 and 94 from Trey Skeens. It was Skeens who ran for 17 and 16 yards following that punt, and after a loss of two, the Maroons had the ball at the Honaker 10 on the first play of the final period.
Crockett then ran around the left side, dived toward the pylon with the ball to score the winning touchdown. Storms added the extra point conversion kick for the final margin.
“The coaches came to me in the beginning of the fourth and told me it was time to make a play,” Crockett said. “He called the play and I had to do it. The line blocked good and the holes were there and I just had to get across that line. I had to dive (for the pylon).”
Honaker (13-2), which overcame a 10-0 first quarter deficit to tie the score at 10-10 at the break, were shut down by the Maroons. Ty Hall was 7-of-18 for 72 yards, while Blake Ray paced the Tigers with 49 yards on the ground, with 44 coming on one play.
“Their defense played well…,” Hubbard said. “You take your hat off to George Wythe, their kids played hard and made a couple of more plays than ours did and won the game…
“We just didn’t make some plays in the second half, the field position hurt us and their defense stepped up and played pretty good.”
Honaker’s lone touchdown was a record breaker for Ty Hall. Honaker’s senior quarterback got loose on a 4th and 14 deep in George Wythe territory and threw the ball toward the end zone where Payton Ball caught it over two defenders and fell into the end zone for the 28-yard score. McKenzie Phillips added the extra point kick to move within 10-7 at the 2:09 mark of the first period.
That touchdown allowed Hall to pass Heath Miller with his 27th touchdown pass of the season. He had already eclipsed Miller’s mark for passing yards in a season.
“It was a goal I set for myself, but right now I don’t even care about his record,” Hall said. “I would rather win the state title because it is something he ain’t got and it is something we all want, but we just fell short.”
Honaker would tie the score on a 37-yard field goal by Phillips with 2:51 left in the half.
George Wythe scored first, after Honaker’s Blake Ray picked off a Jordan Byrd pass and returned it to the Maroons’ 9, but Hall’s pass into the end zone was then intercepted by Isaac Baltazaar
The Maroons promptly drove 80 yards on seven plays, with Justin Snavely finishing it with a 3-yard run up the middle, with Storms adding the extra point kick. On Honaker’s next possession, Cody Lester fumbled and Joseph Owens scooped it up and returned it to the Tigers’ 10.
The Maroons settled for a 24-yard field goal by Storms with 5:54 on the clock.
“In the first half we were getting the ball in good position, 40 or 50 yard line, and we could drive it down to inside the 30 or the 20 and it just seemed like we could stop there…,” Hall said. “We moved the ball all right in the first half, but we just couldn’t put any points up.”
Both Hubbard and Hall had a difficult time after the game feeling good about getting the state title game, but falling short. Moral victories are sometimes hard to take.
“This is only the second time Honaker has gotten this far and the coaches told us not to hang our heads, but whenever you come this far and you fall one game short, you can’t help but feel down about it,” Hall said.
“There is nothing you really can say. We just didn’t have enough points on the board,” added Hubbard. “Our guys gave us a great effort and played hard, it was a heck of a good ball game.
At Salem Stadium
Honaker………......7 3 0 0 — 10
George Wythe..…10 0 0 7 — 17
GW — Justin Snavely 3 run (Andrew Storms kick) 7:30
GW — Storms 24 field goal 5:44
HK — Payton Ball 28 pass from Ty Hall (Mckenzie Phillips kick) 2:09
HK — Phillips 37 field goal 2:51
GW — Dominique Crockett 10 run (Storms kick) 11:53
First Downs: HK 9; GW 12. Rush-Yards: HK 31-83; GW 47-257. Pass Yards: HK 72; GW 0. Comp-Att-Int: HK 7-18-1; GW 0-2-1. Fumbles-Lost: HK 2-1; GW 3-1. Penalty-Yards: HK 2-22; GW 7-56. Punts-Avg: HK 5-40.8; GW 6-37.5.
Rushing: HK Blake Ray 5-49, Cody Lester 6-24, Casey Dye 6-21, Payton Ball 5-8, Austin Smith 1-1, Ty Hall 8-(20); GW Dominique Crockett 14-96, Trey Skeens 18-94, Justin Snively 13-66, Jalen France 1-7, Jordan Byrd 1-(-6).
Passing: HK Ty Hall 7-18-1 int-72-1 td; GW Jordan Byrd 0-2-1int-0-0 td.
Receiving: HK Payton Ball 1-28, Jordan Hess 1-16, Casey Dye 2-12, Blake Rayn 1-9, Austin Smith 1-7; GW none.
Turnovers: HK Blake Ray (interception), Devin Viers (fumble recovery); GW Issac Baltazaar (interception), Joseph Owens (fumble recovery).