Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 7, 2013

Slowing down Virginia-bound Thornhill key to Haysi’s hopes with speedy Colonels

By LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

HAYSI, Va. — Haysi worked hard to get to the state semifinals and worked extra hard on their field to make sure they host it.

Now they hope all the work pays off as the Tigers host Altavista in the Group 1A semifinals today at Sandlick.

Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.

It's the first appearance in the state semis for Haysi since 2005 and the fourth time ever for the Tigers.

Altavista will be, by far, the fastest overall team Haysi has faced all season, offensively and defensively.

It's just another big challenge for a Haysi defense that has answered its first 13 challenges.

The Colonels are led by quarterback Juan Thornhill, who also led them to the state finals in basketball in March.  

He runs the Colonels' offense and most of the time they run.

The speedy junior, who has committed to playing football at Virginia, is their leading rusher with 1,558 yards on the ground this season, including 258 yards in a 49-12 playoff win over Sussex Central two weeks ago.

"It will be a challenge," Haysi coach James Colley said. "Thornhill is the key to their offense."

Haysi faces a challenge in terms of speed on offense, too. The Tigers will rely on their balanced attack.

Quarterback Jalen Sykes has completed 110 of 197 passes on the year for 1,972 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Senior tailback Jeffrey Bowen has run for 2,260 yards rushing on 194 carries and has scored 33 touchdowns.

Tanner O'Quinn averages over 20 yards per catch with 52 receptions for 1,046 yards and 12 TDs.

"We'll just do what we've done all year and work at it," Colley said. "(Altavista) will line up in a 3-5-3 on defense. They rely on speed, rather than size, defensively and they do a good job covering receivers."

That might mean the Tigers will have to power the ball on the ground, or it might mean the sort of short passing game that was so effective in last week's win over J.I. Burton.

"We'll go in with our game plan," said Colley. "We always like to mix it up. We've done that all year.

"It will depend on what their defense gives us. If what we saw on film holds true they'll play an odd front and they'll play a cover 3 and man in the secondary."