Highlanders punish Hurricane
HURRICANE -- Huntington High coach Billy Seals didn't shy away from admitting that he challenged his football team on several occasions this week.
After struggling up front in the final scrimmage, Seals' Highlanders responded by physically punishing Hurricane in a 23-8 season-opening win Friday night.
"We've got some guys that's got some intestinal fortitude," Seals said. "They are tough, hard-nosed kids and when you challenge them, they usually step up."
Offense was at a premium for both sides, but the Highlanders got the key drive of the game when needed to clinch the win.
Leading 10-0, the Highlanders took possession with 2:24 left in the third quarter and went on a 13-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up 7:28 off the clock. Clark Wilson capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge on a quarterback keeper with 6:56 left to push the lead to three scores.
Hurricane's lone big play of the contest came on the ensuing drive as Austin Hensley connected with Brandon Ford on a 62-yard completion to set up the Redskins' lone score -- a 3-yard run by Zack Pate. The conversion pass from Hensley to Austin Sorsaia made it 17-8.
Other than that series, it was a frustrating night for both Hensley and Pate.
Hensley, the Redskins' star quarterback, finished the game 9-of-25 passing for 123 yards and two interceptions -- the final of the two setting up Paden Christian's 4-yard touchdown run that set the final score.
Pate did not fare much better as the interior line of the Highlanders swarmed into the Hurricane backfield to make running lanes obsolete. He finished with 41 yards on 12 carries while fighting cramps the entire second half.
The Hurricane offense finished with just 174 yards total.
"We weren't ready for their physicality," Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor said. "We weren't ready for it at all. This is nothing that they did. They played their hearts out. This is all on me."
Huntington High's offense didn't put up huge numbers, finishing the night with just 187 yards, but it was a strong advantage in field position that enabled the Highlanders to produce points.
The biggest change of momentum came in the second quarter when Hurricane took possession at its own 42-yard line, but was forced into a three-and-out.
On the ensuing punt, Huntington High's Nick Tubbs returned out to the Huntington 45-yard line to flip the field. The next play saw Charles Crawford take a quick handoff up the middle for a 55-yard touchdown that opened the scoring with 8:47 left in the second quarter.
"Nobody was expecting me to go right up the middle because I usually run to the outside," Crawford said. "I saw the hole, I hit it and it was open."
Not only did the score loom large, but the ensuing kickoff saw Huntington High's Zach Stevens pin Hurricane at its own 13-yard line. Following another Hurricane possession without a first down, the Highlanders took possession again and cashed in when Stevens connected on a 43-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 3:35 left in the second quarter.
Hurricane drove down inside the Highlanders' 10-yard line on its next possession, but came away with no points after a snap caught Hensley by surprise and Huntington High's Greg May fell on it to end the threat.
"You can't drive down inside the 20-yard line three or four times and not score, and that's what we did," Taylor said. "We just did not make the most out of our opportunities and we're going to get that fixed."
Crawford finished with 86 yards on 15 carries for the Highlanders while Christian added 69 yards on 16 carries.
Prior to the game, the new addition of the press box was dedicated to Art "Chief" Meeks, a longtime supporter of Hurricane athletics.
Huntington High takes on rival Spring Valley next Friday.
HUNTINGTON HIGH 0 10 0 13 -- 23
HURRICANE 0 0 0 8 -- 8
HUNT -- Crawford 55 run (Stevens kick)
HUNT -- Stevens 42 FG
HUNT -- Wilson 1 run (Stevens kick)
HURR -- Pate 3 run (Sorsaia pass from Hensley)
HUNT -- Christian 4 run (bad snap)
First downs 12 8
Total yards 187 174
Rushes-Yds 48-177 24-52
Comp-Att-Int 1-5-1 9-25-2
Passing yards 10 123
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yds 6-50 3-30
RUSHING -- Huntington: Crawford 15-86, Christian 16-69, Wilson 10-31, Tubbs 6-10, Gatrell 1-(-19). Hurricane: Pate 12-41, Humphreys 7-13; Hensley 5-(-2).
PASSING -- Huntington: Wilson 1-5-1, 10 yards. Hurricane: Hensley 9-25-2, 123 yards.
RECEIVING -- Huntington: Fraley 1-10. Hurricane: Ford 2-66, Pate 3-36, Sorsaia 2-15, Wolford 2-6.