BY LLOYD COMBS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BIRCHLEAF, Va. —
Good things most definitely came in threes Saturday for Haysi.
Three first-half fumbles led to three touchdowns and a three-score margin of victory for the Tigers in a 48-29 win over Castlewood in the first round of the Group A, Division 1 Western Section playoffs at Sandlick Elementary School.
Jeffrey Bowen scored five touchdowns and Zach Owens threw four TD passes, two to Bowen, for Haysi, which played well on both sides of the ball, but also took advantage of one opportunity after another.
The Tigers, who will have a rematch at Dickenson County rival Clintwood next week, started four of their seven scoring drives in Castlewood territory and two more near midfield.
The Blue Devils (6-5) turned the ball over on their first three possessions and five times overall.
Haysi (8-3) recovered the first fumble at the Castlewood 38-yard line and five plays later Owens tossed a 26-yard TD pass to Heath Mullins. The second fumble, near midfield, was soon followed by a 58-yard scoring run by Bowen.
The third fumble came at the Castlewood three-yard line. One play later Bowen had his second touchdown and the Tigers held a 20-0 advantage with 9:12 remaining in the second quarter. “We’ll take that any day of the week,” Haysi coach James Colley said. “Any time you get turnovers and score off of them it’s a big momentum booster.
“Your offense is feeling good. Your defense is feeling good about getting the turnovers. It worked out well for us today.”
Castlewood got within two touchdowns twice, at 20-7 on 4-yard TD run by quarterback Dalton Gordon early in the second quarter and at 34-21 on two interception returns for scores 58 seconds apart in the third period.
Haysi led by as many as four scores briefly in both the third and fourth quarters, but mostly the Blue Devils (6-5) played with a three-touchdown deficit, at halftime and at the end of the game. The bad start left Castlewood coach David Scammell with a familiar, but unpleasant feeling,
“The first time we played them we gave them a couple of scores early, it was like déjà vu,” said Scammell, whose club dropped a 28-14 decision at Haysi early in the regular season. “You can’t give a good team three scores.
“Haysi is well coached. Coach Colley does a good job. We had to battle back all day. The defense made plays to get us back in it, but those three scores off the fumbles made the difference.” Haysi got good production across the board on offense, including 136 yards rushing, 41 yards receiving and 209 all-purpose yards from Bowen, and 11-of-18 passing from Owens for 113 yards. Owens also completed three two-point conversion throws.
“Jeffrey Bowen had some good runs, Zach Owens made some good passes, we had some good play action in there to score,” Colley added. “Zach knows he made a bad throw on that (first interception), but give them credit, they were in the right position. The big thing is, we didn’t let it get us down.”
Haysi, which led 28-7 at halftime, extended that advantage to 34-7 on Owens’ first TD pass to Bowen. The Tigers got the ball right back on an interception by Tanner Artrip.
Two plays later Reid Edmonds returned a pick 28 yards for six points with 6:39 left in the third quarter. Jacob Cornett returned one 47 yards for a score some 58 seconds later to get the Blue Devils within 34-21.
The Tigers responded with a flanker reverse by Mullins for 43 yards to the Blue Devils’ 26-yard line. Two plays later Bowen outran Castlewood to the edge, the sideline and the end zone on a 25-yard touchdown run that pushed the margin back to three scores, 40-21, late in the third period.
Haysi made defending 1,000-yard rusher Reid Edmonds and the jet sweep that Castlewood uses so effectively a priority. The Blue Devils finished with 109 yards rushing, and most of that came on traps up the middle. “We just wanted to play smart, hit the holes, do our responsibility and attack the football,” said Haysi sophomore Tristan Yates, who had eight tackles, while forcing one fumble and recovering another.
“On their jet sweep we wanted to stay outside, do our responsibility and surround the football. I was pleased with the way we played.”
Tyler Blankenship also had eight tackles and both forced and recovered a fumble, while freshman Gauge Hill added eight stops for the Haysi defense. Mullins and sophomore Jalen Sykes came up with interceptions and Treavor Bajorek had one sack.
Castlewood was forced to abandon its offensive game plan, especially in the second half.
“We just didn’t find a rhythm on offense,” Scammell said. “They took away our jet. We could run between the tackles, but when you’re down 21 points, you’ve got to throw the football to give yourself a chance.
“Our timing was off on some of our routes. It was just a tough day for the Blue Devils.”
The Tigers took a 48-21 lead on Owens’ 6-yard TD pass to Bowen with 9:09 remaining in the game.
Edmonds caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Gordon with 27 seconds remaining. Cornett was ejected for kicking a Haysi player in the head after being gang-tackled in the fourth quarter.
At Sandlick Elementary School
Castlewood........................0 7 14 8 — 29
Haysi.................................14 14 12 8 — 48
H-Mullins 26 pass from Owens (run failed)
H-Bowen 58 run (T. O’Quinn pass from Owens)
H-Bowen 3 run (run failed)
C-Gordon 4 run (Johnson kick)
H-T. O’Quinn 4 pass from Owens (Hill pass from Owens)
H-Bowen 11 pass from Owens (run failed)
C-Edmonds 28 int ret (Johnson kick)
C-Cornett 47 int ret (Johnson kick)
H-Bowen 25 run (run failed)
H-Bowen 6 pass from Owens (Blankenship pass from Owens)
C-Edmonds 54 pass from Gordon (Gordon run)
First Downs: C 14, H 18; Rushes-Yards: C 34-109, H 38-229; Passing Yards: C 152, H 123; Comp-Att-Int: C 9-24-1, H 11-18-2; Fumbles-Lost: C 4-3, H 0-0; Penalties-Yards: C 10-74, H 10-75; Punts-Average: C 0-0, H 1-37.