HHS awaits Morgantown test
HUNTINGTON -- Following the 2012 Friends of Coal Bowl, football fans in the cities of Huntington and Morgantown didn't really expect to be crossing paths in the near future.
Then, the high school ranks decided to keep the fire burning between the cities.
This week, the playfully dubbed "'Showdown in H-town" features No. 5 Morgantown (9-2) at No. 4 Huntington High (9-2) in the Class AAA quarterfinals.
And, just like the collegiate version it is expected to be full of action and excitement.
"(Huntington High safety) Clark Wilson put it best," Huntington High head coach Billy Seals said. "He said it's the 'Friends of Coal Bowl, High School Edition.' It should be a lot of fun for both teams."
While the high schools are from the same towns as the state's only two NCAA Division I universities, look for both sides to do things much differently than the collegiate programs close by.
Both Marshall and West Virginia run wide-open offenses that feature aerial attacks.
That will certainly not be seen by either team in this one.
"They are a blue-collar program," Seals said. "Scheme-wise, personnel, coaching -- they are very sound in everything. They are very similar -- even scheme-wise -- to Spring Valley. A lot of block-down, kick-out and run between the tackles. We're going to have to bring it again and be physical again and match their intensity up front."
The physical nature of play is not only something the Highlanders have seen on several occasions this year -- including two of the state's best in Cabell Midland and Spring Valley -- but it is also something the Highlanders themselves have excelled in.
Huntington High is rushing for nearly 300 yards per game and has significant balance in its offensive attack.
Five Highlanders are used in the primary rushing attack with all five having seven touchdowns but none having more than nine.
Paden Christian leads the way with 773 yards on 123 carries with eight scores while quarterback Mark Shaver has 627 yards on 95 carries and seven touchdowns.
Despite being a reserve for much of the year, Donte Hendricks is third in yardage with 578 yards on 83 carries while Charles Crawford has rushed for 537 yards and Nick Tubbs has 348 yards. All three backs have nine touchdowns apiece on the season.
Tubbs missed half the season with a fractured elbow and Crawford missed three games because of a concussion. Both missed the Highlanders' loss to No. 1 Cabell Midland early in the season.
Now, the team is at full strength and poised to make a run.
To advance to the semifinals, they have to get through a talented Morgantown team that has faced some of the best in the state and beyond.
The two losses on the Mohigans' record this year are to defending Class AAA champion Martinsburg and perennial Ohio power Steubenville.
"That right there tells you they are a top-tier program in the state," Seals said. "We have our work cut out for us but our kids are excited and they are up to the challenge."
Offensively, the Mohigans took a hit when star running back Chazzy Thomas was lost for the season because of an ankle injury suffered in Morgantown's win over rival University.
Despite the loss of Thomas, the Mohigans have kept trucking along and put up 49 points on Point Pleasant last week.
"They're sort of like us," Seals said. "When one goes down, they plug another one in. They have a fullback who is about 235 (pounds) and runs with authority and they have some monsters up front.
"They also have a big, tall, physical kid on the outside (wide receiver Blaine Stewart). With what they do, they force your hand, too. You're going to have to choose whether to add a guy to the box and play him one-on-one."
Morgantown quarterback Mark Johnson is an efficient quarterback that likes to get the ball to Stewart, and Alex Weidman, Jalan Thomas and Shane Commodore have taken over since Chazzy Thomas went down.
The winner of Friday's game will take on the winner of Cabell Midland and No. 8 Spring Valley, which is Friday night in Ona.