By ANTHONY STEVENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HONAKER, Va. —
The Tigers handed John Battle their first loss of the season and picked up a ton of Virginia High School League rating points in the process. Honaker (7-1) defeated John Battle 20-7 at EMATS Stadium at Fuller Field on Saturday afternoon.
“We talked to the kids coming into it about what a big game it was,” Honaker coach Doug Hubbard said. “This will help us get a better playoff position, but we have two games remaining and have to take care of business the rest of the season.”
The Tigers overcame numerous missed opportunities in the first half. John Battle (8-1) lost three fumbles and threw an interception in the first half. Dakota Stevens had two fumble recoveries and Payton Ball recovered one fumble. Jordan Hess picked off a pass by Battle quarterback Logan Honaker. The total points off the four turnovers - - zero.
“We kept trying,” said Hubbard jokingly. “I think we out-coached ourselves a little on one of the drives. To be honest, I was afraid that would come back and bite us. We had some opportunities to do something special and we didn’t get it accomplished. I was worried about the game, but the kids just kept hanging.”
Honaker starting kicker Mackenzie Phillips missed the game with an injury. The Trojans took the opening kickoff and started at the 50 after a short kickoff. It took John Battle only six plays to score and all were on the ground. Brandon Balthis scored on a 7-yard run. Matthew McMurray added the extra point and the Trojans quickly had a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff and quickly answered, with a 13-play, 77 yard drive. The key play, on a 4th-and-4 at their won 29, the Tigers faked a punt and snapped the ball to Jon Ritchie who picked up 30-yards around right end for a first down.
Honaker put it in the end zone when quarterback Ty Hall threw a 4-yard TD pass to Jared Shelton. The pass for the two-point conversion fell incomplete and John Battle clung to a 7-6 lead.
Then came Battle’s turnovers but Honaker couldn’t score. The lead remained 7-6 for the Trojans at halftime.
“I think the main thing we did at halftime, was not to get too excited as coaches or players,” said Hubbard. “We made some adjustments and just did a great job in the second half.”
Honaker took the second half kickoff and drove from their 26 to inside the Battle 20. But they missed a 29-yard field goal attempt. After three plays and a punt for the Trojans, Honaker quickly move the ball down the field.
Ritchie had a 22-yard run to the Battle 3. Ritchie then plunged in to give the Tigers the lead. The pass for two failed and Honaker led 12-7 with 2:55 to play in the third quarter.
“We just knew we had to score,” said Ritchie. “We were just able to take it to them and punch it in. The offensive line deserves a lot of credit, we couldn’t have won without their play.”
Battle’s next possession, they were again force to punt. But another miscue, the snap went well over the punters head and the Tigers took over at the Battle 30.
It took only four plays for the Tigers to score. On an option play, Hall pitched to Cody Lester who scored on a 21-yard rush to go up 20-7. It sealed the deal for Honaker, especially after Randy Horton picked off a Battle pass their next possession.
“Turnovers hurt us,” John Battle coach Steve Wright said. “Anytime you turn it over, you hurt your chances of being successful.
“But give Honaker credit, they did a good job of executing and had a good game plan. Their kids were well-coached and well-prepared so let’s give the credit to them.”
The Tigers rushed for 311 yards on the ground, led by Lester who had 80 yards on nine carries. The big stat in the game was time of possession, where Honaker dominated. The Tigers had the ball 35:02 in the game, compared with 12:58 for the Trojans.
“We didn’t do anything fancy,” commented Hubbard. “The kids ran the option well, Hall did a wonderful job with it and the offensive line played tremendous. Hats off to the defense, what a game they played.”
Honaker will travel to Grundy for a Black Diamond District contest on Friday.
At Emats Field
John Battle...........................7 0 0 0 — 7
Honaker.................................6 0 6 8 — 20
JSB—Balthis 7 run (Mcmurray kick), 9:41
HON—Shelton 4 pass from Hall (pass failed), 3:37
HON—Ritchie 3 run (pass failed), 2:55
HON—Lester 21 run (Hall run), 11:41
First Downs: JSB 9, HON 19; Rushes-Yards: JSB 30-120, HON 56-311; Passing Yards: JSB 28, HON 46; Comp-Att-Int: JSB 4-12-2, HON 5-14-1; Fumbles-Lost: JSB 3-3, HON 0-0; Penalties-Yards: JSB 4-28, HON 5-38; Punts-Average: JSB 1-30, HON 2-38.