Highlanders have new quarterback
HUNTINGTON -- Quarterback is one position that will be closely watched when Huntington High opens the 2013 football season Friday at Hurricane.
For the Highlanders, junior Clark Wilson makes his first varsity start in the 7:30 p.m. contest at Hurricane. For the Redskins, Austin Hensley is back for his senior season and enters 2013 as the No. 1 quarterback in Class AAA after throwing for 2,200 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago.
Huntington High features an option-style attack and coach Billy Seals is comfortable with how Wilson has progressed in handling the required calls and reads.
"We believe he can handle it," Seals said. "Manage the game and as he gets more comfortable we'll open things up more. We have a lot of guys who can make plays."
Three of those play makers are returning backs Paden Christian, Nick Tubbs and Charles Crawford. Christian ran for more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games a year ago.
Wilson takes over from Mark Shaver, a freshman walk-on at Marshall University.
"Clark's too hard on himself," Seals said. "He wants everything to be perfect. He's got to be on an even keel like Mark was. Go good or bad, Mark stayed on an even keel. Clark has to be that way. We have a good offensive line. We want to control the ball. That keeps Hensley off the field."
As for Hensley, he's steadily improved since his sophomore year when he threw for 1,100 yards and 10 TDs.
"The best pocket passer I've seen since I've been in West Virginia," said Seals, who's starting his fifth season at Huntington High. "It's all timing and he gets the ball to the right spot. They have a good system and he runs the system well."
Hensley, who made Class AAA all-state second team as a junior, gave a preview of what's to come last week when he completed 13 of 20 passes for 172 yards and two scores in two quarters against Woodrow Wilson in the Mountain State Athletic Conference Grid-O-Rama at Laidley Field in Charleston. The Redskins have three starters back on the offensive line and that experience is a plus when it comes to pass protection. In addition, Hensley has 13 rushing touchdowns in two seasons.
"It's all about pressure," Seals said. "You can't let him sit back in the pocket. He can kill you if he does. We've got to disrupt things."
Wilson can also have a say on what kind of game Hensley has. Wilson is a free safety and made the Class AAA all-state first team in 2012. He recorded 80 tackles, deflected 11 passes and picked off three. Up front, lineman Nigale Cabell can apply pressure as he totaled three sacks and six tackles for loss in 2012.
Zach Pate, an all-purpose back for Hurricane, is another force the Highlanders must contain. He rushed for 700 yards, had 644 yards in receptions and accounted for 13 touchdowns in 2012. He returns kicks as well. Hurricane's other receiving threats are Brandon Ford and Zach Fitzsimmons.
Hurricane led Woodrow Wilson, 19-7, at the half and won, 19-15, as reserves played much of the second half.
Huntington High trailed George Washington, 21-7, at intermission of their MSAC scrimmage, but came back to win, 31-21.
"We didn't have a good day," Seals said. "We know the corrections we have to make."
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Redskins Stadium
Radio: WRVC 930-AM and 94.1-FM