Highlanders come back
HUNTINGTON — Huntington High's defense pitched a second-half shutout and the offense generated two time-consuming scoring drives — one set up by a gamble gone bad — allowing the Highlanders to knock off South Charleston, 21-17, on Friday night at Bob Sang Stadium.
Quarterback Clark Wilson's 1-yard TD run with 5:10 left in the fourth period gave Class AAA top-ranked Huntington High a 21-17 lead. The Highlanders then turned to their defense which responded with two stops to ensure Senior Night would be enjoyable.
South Charleston took over at its 33 with 2:33 left, but Huntington High's defense applied relentless pressure on Black Eagles quarterback Kentre Grier. Three sacks -- two by Ryan Gatrell and one by Greg May -- and a holding call later, the Black Eagles lost 23 yards on their final possession.
"We went in at the half and told the kids to relax," Huntington High coach Billy Seals said. "We've got the second half to play. We're fine. That's the first time we've faced adversity that late. Sometimes you just have to have things go your way."
Before Friday, the last time the Highlanders (9-0 for the first time in the new school's history) trailed was 7-0 early against Ripley. This time, they trailed 17-14 going into the fourth period.
Huntington High got the spark it needed with just over three minutes left in the third period. South Charleston (7-3, No. 10 in Class AAA) had 4th-and-12 at its 45, Grier attempted a pass instead of a punt from the shotgun formation, it fell incomplete and the Highlanders had the momentum.
Huntington High borrowed a page from the Southern Cal playbook -- toss sweeps right and left -- and Nick Tubbs capped the drive with a 13-yard TD run around right end on yet another toss sweep.
"That was the play of the game," Seals said of defensive back John Spence getting in the passing line to spoil Grier's gamble. "Spence did a great job. It switched the momentum from that point."
On the go-ahead drive, Huntington High drove 64 yards in 12 plays and overcame a holding call along the way.
Charles Crawford led the Highlanders with 76 yards on 16 carries. Tubbs added 60 on 10, Paden Christian 45 on 12 and Wilson 39 on 12.
"Those kids ran with a lot of guns and backbone," Seals said.
Huntington High ends the regular season next Friday at Winfield.
Wilson hooked up with Corey Romans on a 67-yard TD pass on Huntington High's first possession. Romans made a one-handed grab with his left hand. The Black Eagles responded with a 12-yard TD pass from Grier to Brandon Greene. Huntington High's defense held South Charleston to a 25-yard field goal by Jacob Gordon after having a 1st-and-goal at the 9. After a Huntington High fumble, the Black Eagles went 64 yards in nine plays with Marquel Hampton going in from 2 yards out on a 4th-and-goal.
"We talked among ourselves at halftime," Highlanders linebacker Greg May said. "We had 24 minutes left. We understood what we had to do. We showed some backbone."
The stop on the fake punt provided the Highlanders with that spark.
"We were surprised. I thought they'd punt," Romans said. "It was a huge play. It got us in the mindsets we've got to make stops."
Grier entered the game ranked No. 2 among Mountain State Athletic Conference quarterbacks. The sophomore had racked up 1,756 yards and 23 TDs through the air, but got blanked in the second half. May said on his final-possession sack, he got the green light from Seals to blitz.
"That got me excited," May said. "We were ready to get a stop. I tried to bounce around and psyche them out a bit. I went right through the gap. No one touched me."
Senior Nigale Cabell did double duty up front for the Highlanders. On offense, his blocks helped get the backs free. On defense, he helped slam the door on Grier.
"The blockers lead and the backs ran hard," Cabell said. "That last drive, we thought one more stop. We got after him. Everybody's going crazy now. Great Senior Night."
SOUTH CHARLESTON 10 7 0 0 -- 17
HUNTINGTON 7 0 7 7 -- 21
H -- Romans 67 pass from Wilson (Stevens kick), 10:37.
SC -- Greene 12 pass from Grier (Gordon kick), 9:31.
SC -- Gordon 25 FG, 2:06.
SC -- Hampton 2 run (Gordon kick), 5:47.
H -- Tubbs 13 run (Stevens kick), :06.
H -- Wilson 1 run (Stevens kick), 5:10.
First downs 10 16
Total Net Yards 342 300
Rushes-yards 29-94 50-220
Passing 248 80
Comp-Att-Int 11-18-0 3-9-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 4-2
Penalties-Yards 8-50 7-36
RUSHING--South Charleston: Cunningham 17-49, Grier 11-43, Hampton 1-2. Huntington: Christian 12-45, Crawford 16-76, Wilson 12-39, Tubbs 10-60.
PASSING--South Charleston: Grier 10-17-0, 213 yards; Crozier 1-1-0, 35 yards. Huntington: Wilson 3-9-1, 80 yards.
RECEIVING--South Charleston: Forrest 4-162, Greene 1-12, Hampton 2-9, Cunningham 2-59, Crozier 2-6. Huntington: Romans 1-67, Tubbs 1-7, Crawford 1-6.
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