RICHLANDS, Va. —
Hometown rivalries fueled expectations for Friday night’s game with the Blue Tornado (5-1) playing host to non-district Honaker (5-1). Richlands had one loss in their wake and were looking to knock the Tigers from the undefeated status.
The Tornado rolled up 448 all-purpose yards on offense and held Honaker to 98 total yards on the night on their way to blanking the Tigers, 35-0.
“We got a couple turnovers in the red zone and I thought our defense stepped up big,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “They (Honaker) got the ball down to our 2-yard line a couple times and they ended up not scoring and that’s a credit to our defense.”
“Offensively we made enough plays to make it happen. Colton Staten had a great game and we had some injuries, but, I’m proud of our football team, we beat a very good football team.”
A driving rainstorm pelted Ernie Hicks Stadium/Emats Field for the 10th annual Clinch River Classic making playing conditions slick on the artificial surface.
Honaker opened the show with the first possession and had to punt after producing negative yards giving Richlands the ball at their own 27-yard line. After a short gain, the Blue Tornado misplayed a handoff and Honaker chased down the wet pigskin and recovered it at the Richlands 2-yard line.
The Tigers found themselves in prime real estate, however, was unable to make good on their opportunity and were flagged for a false start to back the line of scrimmage up five yards.
Honaker did the unthinkable and coughed up the ball against the Tornado defense and Frank Taylor pounced on the ball at the Richlands 11-yard line. The Blues wasted no time getting their offensive line in their plan and Staten burst up the middle for two runs of 24 and 43 yards to push the line of scrimmage deep inside Tiger territory.
The Blues capped the drive on a 5-yard pass from Gray Baker to A.J. Johnson and Ben Brown added the kick with 6:15 showing on the first quarter clock.
The Richlands defense held the Tigers without a first down forcing a punt giving the Tornado the ball at their own 47-yard line. Staten took a handoff six yards before Baker dropped back and unleashed a 45-yard pass down the middle for a first-and-goal at the Honaker 2-yard line. Two plays later Baker bowled in from the 1-yard line for the score and Brown added his first of five extra points in the game.
The Richlands defense had Honaker pinned back inside the Tiger 30-yard line before a low snap on fourth down to Ty Hall forced the senior to run out of punt formation. He made it to the sticks before being knocked out of bounds by the Tornado secondary.
The play drew a personal foul on Richlands taking the lien of scrimmage across midfield to the Blues 48-yard line.
Honaker continued to move the chains and after a couple short gains, Payton Ball took an inside handoff 28 yards to the Tornado 3-yard line to put themselves in position to keep the game close. The Blues defense rise to the occasion again and backed the Tigers up a yard, then, Sam Lawson picked off a pass and ran it back to the Richlands 16-yard line to thwart another Honaker attempt.
“I was reading the quarterback and he threw it right in my chest,” Lawson said. “I just wanted to hang on to the ball and not fumble it.”
The Blues drove the ball 81 yards before turning it over on downs when the Blues elected to go for it on fourth-and-2. Kraig McGlothlin made the stop in the middle of the line for the Tigers to give the visitors new life.
Honaker started rolling back the other way and pushed their way across midfield before a deep pass was picked off by Brown at the Richlands 14-yard line.
The Blue Tornado scored again before the end of the half when Baker fired a 33-yard strike to A.J. Johnson with most of the quarter in the books.
After retooling for the second half, the Blues came out in the second half and scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to make the final score. Baker laced a second 33-yard touchdown to Johnson at the 9:43 and Staten ran in a 4-yard score with :25 seconds left in the third.
Staten led the Tornado on the ground with 213 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown and Baker completed 7-of-12 passes for 182 yards with no interceptions with four touchdowns, three passing and one rushing. Johnson hauled in seven passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. The Tigers were led on the ground by Cody Lester with three carries for 46 yards and Ball carried the rock seven times for 39 yards.
“Our kids played hard and gave us a great effort,” Honaker head coach Doug Hubbard said. “We made some mistakes and we had chances to get 14 or 21 points in the first half and didn’t take advantage. You can’t do that against a good football team.”
The Tornado leads the Classic winning nine of the ten games played. Richlands remains home next week playing host to Marion for their first Southwest District game.
At Ernie Hick/Emats Field
Honaker.................................0 0 0 0 — 0
Richlands............................ 14 7 14 0 — 35
R – Johnson 5-yard pass from Baker (Brown kick)
R – Baker 1-yard run (Brown kick)
R – Johnson 33-yard pass from Baker (Brown kick)
R – Johnson 33-yard pass from Baker (Brown kick)
R – Staten 4-yard run