HHS wins back shield
HUNTINGTON -- There wouldn't be any one-point drama this season between the No. 1-rated Huntington Highlander football team and the No. 2 Cabell Midland Knights.
The normally poised Knights self-destructed in a tough road test Friday night, and the Highlanders were opportunistic in response on the way to a 19-7 win in the annual "Battle for the Shield" at Bob Sang Field.
Huntington High caused four turnovers and Cabell Midland hamstrung itself with drive-stalling penalties as the Highlanders bent on defense but never broke.
"I told our kids I think they showed a lot of backbone instead of a wishbone," Highlanders head coach Billy Seals said. "You're not going to hold a team like Midland to 200 yards, it's not going happen, they're a good football team. We just tried to put them in third and long situations where (Midland quarterback Coy) Pettit had to make some plays, and we were able to do that."
Cabell Midland had prevailed twice by one point in 2011 and 2012, including a 14-13 victory on the Highlanders field last season, when both teams were rated No. 1 in the state in Class AAA.
Earlier in the week, Huntington High defensive lineman Nigale Cabell said he didn't want a one-point margin, but wanted to win the game decisively.
Cabell recovered two fumbles for the Highlanders in the contest, and got his wish.
"Honestly, I was hoping for more points, but Midland really came hard. They showed me what they've got," Cabell said. "I was just glad that we as a team stepped up."
One of those recoveries came in the open field with 2:11 to go in the first half as Pettit lost control of the ball. Cabell cradled the ball in the open field and fell on his back.
"You want to know my first thought? Scoop and score," Cabell said. "But I couldn't mess the game up for my team."
The game was sloppy from the outset.
Petitt fumbled on the first play of the game and Huntington High recovered.
The Highlanders Page Christian would end up punching in a scoring run from two yards out after an exchange of penalty flags between the teams for a 6-0 lead. Things got eerily familiar when Zachary Stevens' extra point attempt was blocked.
From there, execution would take a turn for the worse. Cabell Midland was able to gash the Highlanders defense for big gains, but fumbled the ball four times, two of which Huntington High recovered, and turned the ball over on downs once.
The closest Cabell Midland got to scoring in the first frame were two field goal attempts by Sawyer Adkins, the first of which was blocked and the second missed.
Huntington High came out strong in the second half, driving the ball 65 yards for another touchdown from Christian, this time from 14 yards away.
Cabell Midland would answer on a 27-yard burst from fullback Teran Barnitz. But the Knights would continue to self-destruct with penalties and turnovers, and the Highlanders drove the nail home when Charles Crawford broke off a 54-yard touchdown run with 3:52 to go in the game, putting Huntington High up by 12 points.
Prior to that, Huntington High had been hammering the Knights up the middle on just about every play.
"All of our backs bring something different, and if you take away the outside, we're going to hit you with Paden up the middle," Seals said. "If you take away the middle, we're going to go outside with Nick Tubbs and Charles Crawford."
Students stormed the field as Highlanders quarterback Clark Wilson took a knee after another turnover on downs from Cabell Midland. The team paraded the shield trophy around Bob Sang Field after the win.
"This is amazing," Cabell said of the scene. "We haven't had the shield since my freshman year in 2010, and we came out here and got it again."
"We didn't deserve (the win)," Knights head coach Luke Salmons said. "I mean, when you go in the red zone three times in the first half and can't score, and in the second half we fumbled, they didn't stop us. They deserve the win, hats off to them.
"We're a really good team, they're a good team, and they got us, and this is going to make us better. It's always a back and forth rivalry, and it was a good game."
Seals said staying atop the state ratings isn't a priority.
"That's more for you guys to talk about," he said to reporters. "For us, we want to be number one at the end of the year and get better from game to game. I thought we got better tonight from the first half to the second. We simplified the game."
The win puts the Highlanders at 4-0, and gives Cabell Midland (3-1) its first loss since falling in the state title game after an undefeated 2012 season.
CABELL MIDLAND 0 0 7 0 -- 7
HUNTINGTON HIGH 6 0 6 7 -- 19
H -- Christian 2 run (Kick failed).
H -- Christian 14 run (Run failed). C
CM-- Barnitz 27 run (Adkins kick).
H -- Crawford 54 run (Stevens kick).
First downs 17 16
Total yards 314 283
Rushes-Yards 43-310 47-273
Comp-Att-Int 1-3-0 1-6-0
Passing Yards 4 10
Penalties-Yds 7-65 8-69
Fumbles-Lost 5-3 1-1
RUSHING -- CM: Thomas 19-140, Barnitz 12-85, Hendricks 11-80, Pettit 5-7, Childers 2- minus 2. HUNT: Christian 25-107, Crawford 12-122, Tubbs 5-29, Wilson 6-19.
PASSING -- CM: Pettit 1-2, 4 yards. HUNT: Wilson 1-6, 10 yards.
RECEIVING -- CM: Hendricks 1-4. HUNT: Romans 1-10.