HAYSI — In late November, there is only so much sunlight the mountains will admit to Haysi’s rustic football field at Sandlick on the banks of the Russell Fork River.
Midway through the third quarter, Saturday’s game was played in the shade. The inspired Tigers continued to shine.
Haysi quarterback Jalen Sykes passed for 141 yards and five touchdowns and the top-seeded Tigers beat J.I. Burton 36-12 in a VHSL 1A West quarterfinal game.
Haysi will host Altavista in next week’s 1A state semifinal game.
The field conditions were soft — virtually a quagmire between the hash marks — but the Tigers (13-0) managed to make some headway on the muddy earth.
Running back Jeffrey Bowen rushed for 175 of Haysi’s 213 yards on the ground. He gained 68 in a single whack, setting up his own 11-yard scoring reception from Sykes in the second quarter that put the Tigers in front for good.
Bowen started the game in a No. 24 jersey but came out in the second half wearing a No. 14 because Norton tacklers had shredded the original.
After a mutually scoreless first quarter, Sykes initiated scoring with a 14-yard TD strike to Gauge Hill with 9:46 showing on the second-quarter clock.
Tristan Yates hauled in Sykes’ 1-yard scoring toss in the waning seconds of the first half. Sykes’ 2-point conversion throw to Tanner O’Quinn put the Tigers up 22-6 at the half.
The Tigers’ quarterback went 3-for-5 on 2-point pass attempts, slipping another to O’Quinn and one to Yates.
Sykes beat back Burton’s third-quarter comeback bid with a 9-yard scoring strike to Bowen with 11:03 remaining in the game. His 13-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Artrip with 5:52 showing removed any traces of doubt that the Tigers would prevail.
O’Quinn, who led the Tigers with 91 receiving yards, was stripped of the football on the second half kickoff return by Burton’s Isaac Davis. It was the third critical recovery by the Raiders sophomore in as many weeks.
On the next snap, Kelly Thompson came up with a 27-yard touchdown run down the dry side of the field that cut Haysi’s lead to 22-12. The subsequent conversion pass failed.
On the next series, O’Quinn coughed up another at the end of a 28-yard reception. That turnover might have shifted momentum for good, but Haysi’s defense recovered its shaken equilibrium.
Thompson initiated scoring for Burton in the second quarter on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Tra Adams. Thompson made the catch over the middle in double coverage, dragging his defenders into the end zone.
Thompson had 56 yards rushing for the Raiders (8-5), who otherwise saw their running lanes clogged up by a Tigers defense that was led by Yates and Bowen at linebacker.
Tra Adams led Burton with 126 passing yards. He gave up an interception in the first quarter but it cost the Raiders nothing but field position.
For an expanded version of this article, please see Sunday's print edition or our electronic edition.