A committee that gets things done
HUNTINGTON -- Driving up the hill to Huntington High School, one can see more than 25 signs or banners signifying a state championship or athletic achievement in a variety of sports.
Not one of them mentions football.
But there's a committee looking to change that.
It's the Huntington High offense by committee that has the Highlanders at 7-1, rated No. 3 in Class AAA, scoring more than 30 points per game and looking to secure a high seed in the state playoffs.
"Getting that sign on the hill, that's the goal," said running back Payton Johnson, one of at least five skill players to see significant time in the backfield for the Highlanders this year.
"We don't really have one star," head coach Billy Seals said.
Injuries have forced the team to play differently on offense, with an array of different personnel.
Donte Hendricks, Paden Christian, Brandon Morrison and Johnson have all seen plenty of action this season.
"Just working hard through three-a-days, that really brought us together," said Hendricks. "We had Charles (Crawford) out, Nick (Tubbs) out and we all just had to step up and do what we had to do."
"Everybody going together, pulling together, blocking for each other and running hard, everyone playing together as a team has made this a success," Christian said.
Crawford returned a couple weeks ago and Tubbs made his return last week in a 35-14 defeat of Greenbrier East.
"I was real anxious to get back out there," Tubbs said. "I started off a little rusty, but I got back into the flow and I feel good now."
Neither of the feature backs were available for the Cabell Midland game Sept. 21, when both teams were rated No. 1 in the state. Midland handed Huntington High its only defeat, 14-13.
The Highlanders got right back on track, going to Beckley and knocking off Woodrow Wilson (30-22), then traveling to Logan for another win (37-18), before coming back home last week to take care of Greenbrier East.
"It wasn't hard to bounce back," quarterback Mark Shaver said. "For one, we weren't completely healthy, so, yeah, we lost by a point and it hurt and everything, but hopefully we'll meet back up when it matters."
Shaver had to change his play a bit from last year, when he threw for about 100 yards a game and had 11 touchdown passes. This year, the senior signal-caller has been doing more with his feet, partly out of necessity to bring another dimension to the ground game when the Highlanders were banged up.
"We don't have as many weapons as far as passing goes," Shaver said.
Seals said he's proud of the way his team has come together through adversity and still managed to get wins with key pieces of the offense missing in some games.
"If you look at us, Charles gets hurt in game two, Nick gets hurt in game three, but give credit to guys like Donte and Brandon Morrison who did the work in the offseason to be ready to step in if something happened," Seals said. "We're not going to have a guy with 40 carries for 400 yards, that's just not the way our offense works. Our offense is pretty much equal opportunity."
Seals said he's confident in all of the skill players, and confident in a team that has now "learned how to win."
The Highlanders' program had been down for several years until the 2011 season, when HHS won eight games and made a run in the playoffs.
"We had to get away from that losing mentality, and we've done that," Seals said. "Our kids expect to win on Friday nights, and they put in the work and effort during the week to do that."
As for a state title sign on the hill, Seals wants that just as bad as his players.
"When we met in January after last season, we set two goals," Seals said. "Number one, we felt like we should be in a position to get a top four seed. The next goal was to be playing in Wheeling in December.
"We've been preaching that through off-season, and continued through the season. I think we have a legitimate shot this year, but we have to take it one week at a time."
Huntington High plays its final two regular season games at home -- Friday against Riverside and Nov. 2 against Capital.