By ANTHONY STEVENS for the Daily Telegraph
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
HONAKER, Va. —
It’s been a long time since all-pro Pittsburgh Steeler tight end Heath Miller played for the Honaker Tigers. It also been a while since Honaker advanced to the state semifinals in football.
The Tigers were last in the semis in 2000 during Miller’s senior year, and on a cold Sat-urday afternoon they punched their ticket to make an appearance again this season.
The Honaker defense shut out J.I. Burton 17-0 at Fuller Field at EMATS Stadium to advance to the final four of the Group A football playoffs. The Tigers have now won seven in a row. They kept a J.I. Burton (9-4) squad that had been averaging 33 points a game this season off the scoreboard.
“This is pretty sweet,” Hona-ker coach Doug Hubbard said. “To be honest the shutout shocked me. I told the kids at halftime if you shut out this bunch you’ve really done something. Very few teams have ever shut out a Burton team like this.”
The Raiders finished with only 97 yards of total offense. The explosive “jet sweep” offense was limited to an unbelievable 28 yards rushing.
“We felt we needed to come in here and make a statement,” said Tiger linebacker Blake Ray. “We just buckled down and showed everyone that we can play tough defense. The defense played extremely well, we just used our power to shutdown their speed.
“The linebackers didn’t have to do a lot today. The ends and defensive tackles made most of the plays. When you have those big horse’s up front it really makes things a lot easier.”
What makes the win even more amazing, Honaker lost outstanding quarterback Ty Hall to a hip injury with the score 0-0 and 12 seconds to play in the first quarter.
“That was a pretty big blow, especially because we are so close,” Ray said. “I think everyone just stepped their game up. With him going down and us still getting the job done helps our confidence going forward.”
The Tigers picked off J.I. Burton senior quarterback Tanner Crowder four times. Crowder was 6-of-19 passing for 69 yards.
Jordan Hess had two interceptions, Ray and Randy Horton also had picks for Honaker (12-1). Up front Dakota Stevens, Chandler Miller and Deandre Williams dominated the line of scrimmage.
“A lot of our mistakes were forced mistakes,” said Burton coach Jim Adams. “Honaker’s defense certainly played phenomenal today. We knew they had a good defense. But they really brought their A-game today.
“They limited what we could do. Malik (Miles) banged his knee up early and that limited his effectiveness. Once he wasn’t a factor, they pinned their ears back and really came after Crowder. Then we were really in trouble offensively.”
As soon as Hall left the game on a fourth-and-5, Mackenzie Phillips came in and booted a 27-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
Then late in the first half, Honaker put together an eight-play, 76-yard drive with all the plays coming on the ground. Cody Lester had a 34-yard run to set up his 3-yard TD scamper. The Tigers held a 10-0 advantage at halftime.
Honaker then added a TD in the fourth quarter. Casey Dye who did an outstanding job at quarterback after the injury to Hall, pitched to tailback Payton Ball. Ball then threw a 21-yard TD pass to Dye who made a tremendous run after the catch.
Ball finished with 110 yards on the ground on 24 carries. Ray (77 yards) and Lester (63 yards) added to the Tigers ground game. Honaker ran 30 more offensive plays (67) in the game than the Raiders (37).
Honaker, which has now won 12 in a row at EMATS, will host Sussex Central next Saturday with a 1 o’clock kickoff scheduled.
“I don’t know much about them except it will be another good football team,” stated Hubbard. “The big thing is we’re playing here and I will take that any day.”
At Fuller Field/EMATS Stadium
J.I. Burton.......0 0 0 0 — 0
Honaker..........3 7 0 7 — 17
HON—FG Phillips 27, 0:08
HON—Lester 3 run (Phillips kick), 4:43
HON—Dye 21 pass from Ball (Phillips kick), 5:36
First Downs: JIB 4, HON 20; Rushes-Yards: JIB 18-28, HON 62-293; Passing Yards: JIB 69, HON 38; Comp-Att-Int: JIB 6-19-4, HON 3-5-0; Fumbles-Lost: JIB 1-1, HON 5-2; Penalties-Yards: JIB 2-20, HON 1-5; Punts-Average: JIB 5-32, HON 1-0.
RUSHING—JIB, Miles 7-9, Thompson 4-5, Crowder 4-1, Justiano 2-(-7), Patton 1-20. Honaker, Ray 12-77, Shelton 1-0, Hall 2-(-4), Ball 24-110, Smith 3-21, Dye 10-7, Lester 8-63, Bunn 1-7, Ritchie 1-2.
PASSING—JIB, Crowder 6-19-4-69. Honaker, Hall 2-4-0-17, Ball 1-1-0-21.
RECEIVING—JIB, Patton 4-53, Thompson 2-16. Honaker, Ray 1-9, Smith 1-8, Dye 1-21.