Eagles to test HHS
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington High School football coach Billy Seals meant no disrespect to St. Albans or Parkersburg when on Thursday he said South Charleston is a step up in competition.
"They definitely bring a different dynamic than the last couple of weeks," Seals said of the Black Eagles, who take on the Highlanders at Bob Sang Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday. "Their athletes match up with ours across the board. They're a big play team. They live and die by the big play."
South Charleston (7-2 overall and in the Mountain State Athletic Conference) brings to the game the third-best scoring offense in Class AAA. Led by quarterback Kentre Grier, the Black Eagles average 41.3 points per contest. South Charleston has scored more than 40 points five times and figures to be motivated to play well. With an upset, SC likely would earn a first-round home playoff game.
The top-ranked Highlanders (8-0, 8-0) counter with the No. 1 scoring defense in AAA, giving up just 8.75 points per game. Huntington hasn't surrendered more than 18 points in any game and opponents have scored in double digits just three times.
"They're a dangerous team," HHS defensive tackle Shamar Ingram said of SC. "They have great athletes and coaches. They can match up to us with their speed."
Highlander cornerback Brandon Morrison said he is impressed with the Black Eagles, who won the last meeting with Huntington, 44-7, in 2010.
"They have a lot of athletes," Morrison said. "We have to come out crisp."
The Highlanders believe they've been anything but crisp on defense the last two games, despite demolishing Parkersburg 55-14 and St. Albans 56-18. Seals hasn't been pleased with his defense since a 24-10 victory over Capital three weeks ago. He said a lackluster performance against the Black Eagles, who are 3-1 on the road, could make for a difficult night.
"For us on defense, we have to mix things up well," Seals said. "They look to the sideline and change calls. They count how many you have in the box and change at the line. Our defense needs a collective effort."
Ingram didn't argue with his coach's assessment.
"We have to do a better job than we did the two last weeks," Ingram said. "We allowed too many points to inferior teams."
South Charleston's defense likely will require a tremendous effort, as the Highlanders average 40.8 points per game. Huntington hasn't scored fewer than 19 points in a game all season and topped 55 points in three of its last four contests.
The Black Eagles rely on a defense led by linebacker Jay Richardson, who sacked Riverside quarterbacks four times last week in a 48-19 victory over the Warriors.
"Our offensive line needs to control the line of scrimmage," Seals said. "Our offensive line has gotten much better. The group has gelled together. We need to take care of things in the red zone. Their defense gets them the football."
The Highlanders believe they continue to get every opponents' best shot because of their No. 1 rating. HHS has 16.13 ratings points. No. 2 Martinsburg has 14.33 and third-ranked Point Pleasant has 14.13
"We have a big target on our back because of that No.1 ranking," Morrison said. "We have to perform every week. We made too many mistakes last week."
Seals said his players must understand they have transformed from the hunters to the hunted. No longer does Huntington look for an upset, but tries to stave off one. Seals and his staff's challenge is to keep players mentally inspired.
"It's very, very difficult," Seals said. "We have a target on our back every week. We get every team's best. We have to take it week by week. We can't go 10-0 if we don't go 9-0. Our sole focus is on a very good, well-coached South Charleston football team."
The Highlanders have a Nov. 8 game at Winfield before moving into the playoffs.
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