HUNTINGTON — Offensive struggles and defensive miscues in the first half were too much for the Huntington Highlanders football team to overcome in a 19-11 loss to the visiting Spring Valley Timberwolves Friday night at Bob Sang Stadium at Huntington School.
Third-ranked Spring Valley (9-1) finished the regular season with their seventh consecutive victory while No. 8 Huntington High (4-5) suffered its fourth loss in past six games.
“We made some mistakes, especially in the second half but we found a way to win in a very tough place to play, and battled through some adversity to do it,” Wolves’ coach Brad Dingess said. “We didn’t do the things we did well in the first half which was frustrating.”
But a big first half proved to be enough for the visitors, aided by some defensive miscues and coverage breaks by the HHS.
Spring Valley’s first scoring drive could’ve ended long before Luke Christopher’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Wolves a 7-0, but it didn’t.
The Highlanders’ defense jumped offside as the SVHS offense lined up to go for it facing fourth-and-1 on their own half of the field. The penalty extended the drive and Spring Valley scored seven plays later to take a one score lead.
Spring Valley kicker Zane Porter connected on a 34-yard field goal attempt to give the Timberwolves a 10-0 lead, Huntington High muffed ensuing kickoff and began the drive at their own 10.
HHS quarterback Ta’Jhan Blackwell was sacked on first down then called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the next play, resulting in a safety to put the Wolves up by a dozen halfway through the second quarter.
Following the free kick after the safety, Spring Valley tacked on another score before taking a 19-0 lead into halftime. Nate Ellis found a wide open Zane Porter for a 30-yard touchdown pass with 3:23 left in the second quarter.
Porter accounted for 11 of the Timberwolves 19 points, going 2-of-2 on PATs, making a field goal, and catching a touchdown.
“Everything was coming my way. I had to do what I had to do to get the result we wanted,” Porter said. “They set me up and I made the plays.”
The Highlander defense tightened down in the second half and gave up just 20 yards of offense to Spring Valley, who did not earn a first down in the final two quarters.
“We have to play a full 48 minutes,” Huntington coach Billy Seals said after the loss. “The defense that played in the second half, where were they in the first half? We can’t give a team like Spring Valley a 19-0 lead like that.”
Huntington got things rolling in the second half but it was too little too late for the Highlanders, despite getting some big plays from a pair of seniors playing in their final home game at HHS.
A blocked punt set up by senior Malik Johnson set up Huntington’s first score, a 7-yard Brocton Blair touchdown run, and a junior Nathan Young’s 32-yard field goal brought the home team within a single possession, 19-11, with less than two minutes left in the game.
Huntington recovered an onside kick and drove all the way down to the opponent’s 15 but Blackwell’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the final seconds and the Highlanders’ comeback fell just short.
SVHS — 7 12 0 0 — 19
HHS — 0 0 8 3 -11
SVHS — Christopher 1 rush (Porter kick)
SVHS — Porter FG 34
SVHS — Safety
SVHS — Porter 30 pass from Ellis (Porter kick)
HHS — Blair 7 rush (Blair 2 pass from Blackwell)
HHS — Young FG 32
RUSHING: SVHS — Christopher 17-98, TD; Livingston 14-66, Ellis 9-17, Page 1-7; Porter 1-4. HHS — Blair 17-83, TD; Felder 1-0, Blackwell 8 — minus 23.
PASSING: SVHS — Nate Ellis 1-of-2, 30yds, TD. HHS: Ta’Jhan Blackwell 11-of-32, 89 yards, INT.
RECEIVING: SHVS — Porter 1-30, TD. HHS — Jackson 3-32; Brown 2-24, Mitchell 3-11, Archer 1-11, Blair 1-8.
Luke Creasy is a reporter for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.