By LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BIRCHLEAF, Va. —
Haysi had to adjust to life without Jeffrey Bowen. Both teams had to adjust to playing in the mud.
The top-seed in Group 1A West the Tigers scored twice in the first quarter and withstood a challenge from the number 16 seed, Eastside to pull out a 22-8, first-round win over the Spartans on a sloppy Sandlick field Friday night.
The rain started just as play began and the conditions affected the offense for both clubs.
The high-scoring Tigers were without Bowen, who has nearly 2,000 rushing yards this season. He sprained an ankle in practice on Thursday.
The upset-minded Spartans, meanwhile, could not establish a passing game in the rain with senior quarterback Caleb Riner, who has passed for more than 2,000 yards.
The biggest plays of the game was in the second half and it came on defense. Haysi (11-0) took an 8-0 lead on a short-field drive when Jalen Sykes threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Artrip on the Tigers' first possession of the game.
A short time later Sykes picked off a Riner pass and negotiated his way along the left sideline 55 yards for a score and a 14-0 Tigers
lead. Riner's two-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run got Eastside (5-6) within 14-8 at the 1:55 mark of the first period.
It was one defensive stand after another for nearly three quarters after that as each side made a slew of big third down stops and one
big fourth quarter tackle that may have been the biggest play of the night.
Tyler Mullins, with help from Tristan Yates, tackled Riner for a 2-yard loss on fourth-down-and-one near midfield with 4:41 remaining.
"That was the biggest defensive play of the game," Haysi coach James Colley said. "It gave us the ball back and it took the momentum away from them.
"I hate to play in a sloppy mess, but it was the same for both teams. In the second half it was terrible, but we got a great defensive effort."
One of three players who rotated in at tailback in place of Bowen, Tanner O'Quinn scored an insurance touchdown after the Tigers's key fourth down stop. Normally a wide receiver, he and Yates each made key runs to set up O'quinn's 8-yard TD run that gave Haysi a 22-8 lead with 2:07 remaining.
"It started raining right after pre-game warmups and that field was a muddy mess," O'Quinn said. "It was tough to move the ball, especially without Jeff.
"The the ball was like ice. Jalen couldn't throw it, Blake (Branham) couldn't snap it and I couldn't catch it."
Riner was limited by conditions to just 42 yards on 7-of-19 passing, but he was the top runner on the night with 75 rushing yards on 17 carries.
"We decided (Riner) was one of our better options, so we were gonna keep it in his hands as much as possible tonight," Eastside coach Matthew Hamilton said. "We just tried the best we could to let him do his thing. I thought we played really well tonight, a 16 seed playing a number one seed."
Added Colley, "I told our guys before the game we knew Riner was really big. He's run the ball well all year.
"He likes to throw, but he can run too, It was one of those things where he got some yards, but we were also able to stop him a few
O'Quinn gained 60 yards on 14 attempts, while Yates added 48 yards on 12 carries. The loss of Bowen kept the Tigers scrambling on defense as well.
"We used three different people at tailback," added Colley. "Chris O'Quinn, Tanner and Gauge Hill.
"Defensively, we moved a safety to defensive end, a defensive end to linebacker. At times we brought in another guy to play linebacker and all this happened on Thursday."
Haysi will host Galax in the second round of the playoffs.
Eastside.................................8 0 0 0 — 8
Haysi.....................................14 0 0 8 — 22
H-Artrip 22 pass from Sykes (O'Quinn run)
H-Sykes 55 Int Ret (run failed)
E-Riner 2 run (Riner run)
H-O'Quinn 8 run (O'Quinn run)
First Downs: E 11, H 14; Rushes-Yards: E 33-143, H 40-162; Passing
Yards: E 42, H 121; Comp-Int-Att: E 7-19-1, 8-16-0; Fumbles-Lost: E 2-0, H 1-1; Penalties-Yards: E -15, H 2-10; Punts-Average: E 5-33.2, H 3-36.0.