Highlanders stand strong
HUNTINGTON — When Huntington High quarterback Clark Wilson was forced from Friday’s game offensively because of an injury on the team’s first drive, the Highlanders didn’t flinch.
Instead, the Huntington High defense dug its heels in the turf at Bob Sang Stadium and had Capital flinching because of the pressure all Homecoming evening.
Huntington High forced five turnovers and scored 10 points off turnovers in the fourth quarter to earn a hard-fought 24-10 win over the Cougars in the annual “Battle for the Bell.”
The game was a matchup of the No. 1 Highlanders, now 6-0, and No. 2 Cougars (4-1) in the Class AAA state ratings. With the win, Huntington High will retain its top spot heading into a bye next week.
“Our guys executed the game plan and they played really hard against a really fast and explosive offense,” Huntington High coach Billy Seals said. “I thought we played lights out tonight, to be honest.”
The game’s critical sequence came in a five-minute stretch in the late stages of the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 7-3, Capital received possession near midfield and had momentum, but a fumble by Kashuan Haley on the first play of the drive flipped field position and gave the Highlanders’ momentum.
After Huntington High parlayed that into a 30-yard field goal by Zack Stevens, the Cougars fumbled their next snap when quarterback Tyhree Pratt handled a high snap, but was hit immediately, losing the ball deep in Capital territory.
Five plays later, Paden Christian’s 1-yard run made it 17-3 with 8:48 left in the game and put distance between the teams.
Capital was able to churn out a 16-play, 71-yard drive, capped by Haley’s 1-yard sneak with 33 seconds left to make it 17-10, but Nick Tubbs returned the onside kick attempt 62 yards to set the final score.
While there was a scoring barrage of sorts late in the fourth quarter of the contest, the tone of the game was strictly defensive with both units asserting themselves early.
Led by Arick Nicks on the outside at defensive end, the Highlanders’ pressure constantly got to Pratt and forced him outside of his norm.
Pratt never got into a rhythm throwing the ball and fumbled six times. He finished the game 13 of 27 passing for 149 yards – 83 of which came after the Cougars fell behind two scores – while rushing 18 times for minus-4 yards.
Nicks, who is better known as a basketball standout for the Highlanders, said his motivation was for his teammates on the football team, who fell 48-14 in the regular-season finale to Capital last year.
“I came to get this day for Nick (Tubbs) and Charles (Crawford) because I’ve been with them since we were little,” Nicks said. “They wanted the Bell bad after last year.”
As a team, Capital fumbled 11 times and lost four of them.
However, the Cougars’ defense had stepped up to keep the game manageable as the teams went into the halftime locker room with Huntington High leading 7-0.
Prior to a halftime in which Karianne Fischer was crowned as Homecoming Queen 2013 and Riley Aulick took home honors as Homecoming King, neither team eclipsed the 100-yard mark offensively in the first half as defense dictated play.
Huntington High got a pair of big breaks before Crawford’s 1-yard touchdown run to provide the first half’s only score.
Facing third-and-11 and with Wilson out of the contest, Tubbs took a pitch and hurdled a defender before being stopped short of the line. However, a facemask penalty gave the Highlanders a first down.
On the next play, Huntington High offensive lineman Dwan Wheeler jumped on a fumble at the Capital 1-yard line after Paden Christian had been stripped inside the 10. Crawford went in untouched on the next play.
The unsung hero award for the Highlanders will go to backup quarterback Jaylen Adaway, a 5-foot-10 sophomore who stepped under center for Wilson and wasn’t fazed by the pressure of the big game.
“They’re only a snap away,” Seals said. “Jaylen gets a lot of reps with our first group at practice because, like tonight, Clark goes down and can’t play offense. Jaylen did a great job of preparing himself.”
Carpenter said the missed opportunities to get turnovers when the ball is on the ground – Huntington High also put the ball on the turf six times – hurt his team badly.
“They picked up our fumbles and we didn’t pick theirs up,” Carpenter said. “We’ve got to get better about playing all the way to the whistle. We had a chance to pick some of those up. I just think they played harder than we did.”
Christian finished with 77 yards and the score on 15 carries for Huntington High, who was outgained 219-117 by Capital.
CAPITAL 0 0 3 7 – 10
HUNTINGTON HIGH 0 7 0 17 – 24
HH – Charles Crawford 1 run (Zack Stevens kick)
C – Logan Garrison 23 FG
HH – Stevens 30 FG
HH – Paden Christian 1 run (Stevens kick)
C – Kashuan Haley 1 run (Garrison kick)
HH – Nick Tubbs 62 KO return (Stevens kick)
Total yards 219 117
First downs 17 8
Rushes-Yds 39-65 38-117
Comp-Att-Int 14-29-1 0-4-0
Passing yards 154 0
Fumbles-Lost 11-4 6-2
Penalties-Yds 6-47 13-102
RUSHING: CAP – Haley 16-50; Richmond 5-19; T. Pratt 18-(-4). HHS – Christian 15-77; Tubbs 10-19; Gibbs 1-15; Crawford 6-11; Wilson 1-2; Adaway 5-(-7).
PASSING: CAP – T. Pratt 13-27-0, 149 yards; Haley 1-2-1, 5 yards. HHS – Adaway 0-3-0; Tubbs 0-1-0.
RECEIVING: CAP – Davis 2-51; Haley 5-42; C. Pratt 3-38; Nazario 4-23.
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