Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 30, 2013

Haysi favored to end jinx with J.I. Burton

By LLOYD COMBS
for the Daily Telegraph

HAYSI, Va. — Haysi has never beaten J.I. Burton in the playoffs.

The undefeated Tigers are the favorites to change that today as they host the Raiders (8-4) in the Group 1A West state quarterfinals at 2 p.m. at Sandlick Elementary School.

Haysi (12-0) hosts a Burton team that began the season 1-3, but has won seven of its last eight, including playoff victories over Auburn and Clintwood.

J.I. Burton and Haysi have only met three times in the post-season and Burton won all three games, in 2008, 2009 and 2011. There’s a difference this time. Those three contests were all played in Norton and the Raiders were the favorites all three times.

The Tigers are favored today, at least in part, because of the overall records, but Haysi coach James Colley says records mean nothing this time of year.

“(J.I. Burton has) really improved since the beginning of the season,” Colley said. “They’re playing at a whole different level than they were (early in the season). That’s the reason they’re at this point in the playoffs.”

Burton is a fast, run-oriented team that loves to run jet sweeps with a deep and talented backfield.

Tristan Yates leads the Haysi defense and the junior linebacker’s 22 tackles went a long way toward slowing down Steven Peoples and Galax in last week’s playoff win over Galax.

The Haysi offense, meanwhile, spreads the ball around with junior quarterback Jalen Sykes and a deep group of receivers led by senior Tanner O’Quinn and junior Tyler Mullins. The latter scored two touchdowns and made some other key plays.

Star tailback Jeffrey Bowen overcame a bad ankle sprain from the week before to run for 147 yards against Galax and push his season total to 2,081 yards.

Getting the same excellent balance on offense it’s had all year is one of the keys today for the Tigers.

“Hopefully we can just continue to do the things that we’ve been doing,” said Colley. “To be successful we have to run the ball and throw the ball. We’ve got do a combination of things.”

Haysi tied a school record for wins Saturday, matching the 1991 and 1993 teams, which both started out 12-0 before losing in the state semifinals. They lost to Lebanon in 1991 and Giles in 1993.

The Tigers also reached the state semifinals in 2005 where they lost again to eventual state champion Giles and finished with an 11-2 record.

With a win today Haysi would host the lowest remaining East seed in the state semifinals next Saturday.