By LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HONAKER, Va. —
Honaker’s offense has dominated the headlines most of the season.
On Saturday the big news was its defense.
The Honaker Tigers won their third straight Black Diamond District championship with a 21-0 shutout of the Haysi Tigers at Emats Stadium.
Honaker (9-1, 4-0) has apparently clinched the top spot in the Group A, Division 1 playoffs in the Western section, giving the Tigers the home field advantage through the state semifinals.
The defense held Haysi in check while the offense found its way for Honaker Saturday. Ty Hall threw two touchdown passes, one in each half as Honaker added two second-half scores to a 7-0 halftime lead on a so-so day for both offenses.
The defense stopped Haysi (8-2, 3-1) in Honaker territory twice in the first half and two more times in the second half, when Honaker held the Tigers to 40 total yards.
The home team Tigers got ample pressure on Haysi quarterback Zach Owens, who was only sacked twice, but was hurried on a number of occasions and chased around when his receivers were well-covered.
It started with interior linemen Deandre Williams and Chandler Miller and the rest of the defensive front, said Honaker coach Doug Hubbard.
“We got a good effort. Our defense, I thought, played extremely well,” Hubbard said. “Deandre and Chandler, they’re athletes, they’re strong and they’re quick off the ball.
“When you’ve got those two and (Payton) Ball and Devin (Viers) at the other end, you got four pretty good athletes coming off the ball who can get pressure on the pass rush. And our defensive backs made plays when they had to.”
Defensive back Shey Bunn, who scored the only touchdown of the first half on a 42-yard pass from Hall, broke up two passes and was in on seven tackles. Williams had one sack and six tackles and Miller had eight tackles, seven of them solo stops.
Inside linebacker Dakota Stevens marvels at the play of his defensive teammates at times, especially the big men in front of him.
“I feel like our defensive line did well and our linebackers, we filled the holes. We didn’t let them get anything deep on us,” said Stevens, who led Honaker with nine overall tackles, including seven solos, and recovered a fumble. “Our defensive line was in their backfield pretty much every time. I’m proud to play with all of them.”
Honaker set the tone defensively early, when it stopped Haysi’s Jeffrey Bowen cold. Bowen, who was coming off a school-record game with 332 yards rushing and six touchdowns the week before, gained just 41 yards on 11 carries, with 33 of those yards coming on one first-half run.
“We had to watch the option and watch the sweep when (Bowen was) in the backfield,” Stevens added. “We really had to watch him.”
Haysi made a key defensive stop of its own in the first half when Heath Mullins intercepted a Ty Hall pass in the end zone. It was one of two first-half picks for Mullins.
Led by linebacker Tristan Yates Haysi was chasing Hall all over the place late in the first half, and hit him hard just as he found a wide open Bunn in the end zone. It broke a scoreless tie with just 1:33 left before the intermission.
“That broke our back,” Haysi coach James Colley said. “Letting them score just before the half was a killer. We had a busted coverage and they took advantage.”
Hall scored on a 6-yard run on a quarterback draw in the third period. His second TD pass was to another wide open receiver, tight end Casey Harman, a score that gave Honaker a 21-0 lead with 6:49 remaining.
Haysi, which had poor field position most of the second half, had a couple of good scoring chances. The Tigers drove to the Honaker 21-yard line before turning the ball over on downs in a 0-0 game in the second quarter.
It was still a 7-0 game when a wide open Haysi receiver dropped a pass on a fake punt try that would have given the Tigers a first down inside the Honaker 30 midway through the third period.
“We made a play here or there, we just couldn’t keep a drive going,” Colley added. “They got too much pressure on our quarterback. We couldn’t run.
“They manhandled us up front. We couldn’t push off the ball and when you’re not able to block someone off the ball once in a while you can’t get anything going.”
Ball led Honaker in rushing with 77 yards on 14 carries. The Tigers finished with 260 yards in total offense.
“They played really good hard defense,” Hubbard added. “We just got them on two or three offensive plays.”
Haysi will host a first round playoff game, probably against Castlewood. Honaker, meanwhile, has a couple days to celebrate a third straight BDD title before hosting Patrick Henry.
“Coach Hubbard said this is the first time in history Honaker has won three consecutive BDD (titles) and we’re really excited about that,” Stevens said.
Haysi.........................................................................0 0 0 0 — 0
Honaker....................................................................0 7 7 7 — 21
Hon-Bunn 42 pass from Hall (Phillips kick)
Hon-Hall 6 run (Phillips kick)
Hon-Harman 14 pass from Hall (Phillips kick)
First Downs: Hay 8, Hon 16; Rushes-Yards: Hay 28-60, Hon 41-154; Passing Yards: Hay 85, Hon 106; Comp-Att-Int: Hay 8-20-1, Hon 8-14-2; Fumbles-Lost: Hay 4-2, Hon 3-0; Penalties-Yards: Hay 6-59, Hon 7-50; Punts-Average: Hay 3-36.0, Hon 1-28.0.