ONA — Cabell Midland (1-0) has prepared all week for arch-rival Huntington High (0-1).
That wouldn’t be a big deal most seasons, but after the wackiness the Knights experienced last week, any measure of consistency is appreciated.
Cabell Midland was in Fairmont to scrimmage Fairmont Senior last Friday when it received a phone call from Parkersburg South administrators offering the Knights a chance to play at 7:30 that night. The Patriots’ opponent, University, couldn’t play because Monongalia County was in the no-play range on the state’s COVID-19 chart.
Cabell Midland accepted and made the 116-mile trip to Parkersburg, where it defeated South 69-34.
“It’s a lot different,” Knights coach Luke Salmons said. “If you get a chance to play, you better play.”
Cabell County is one of the few in southwestern West Virginia cleared to play. Wayne, Putnam and Kanawha counties, all of which featured Cabell Midland opponents, are shut down this week.
Salmons said he will breathe easier once foot meets ball at the opening kickoff Friday night. Until then, he takes nothing for granted, all the while practicing as usual.
Salmons said he feels better this week than he did last when several new players debuted having never scrimmaged and facing an opponent they hadn’t scouted.
“I feel we’ve gotten a lot better in the last week,” Salmons said. “Last week was like our first scrimmage normally would be. A lot of that stuff, we’d never ever done before. We do what we do and we don’t change much, but we do change some. We just have to try to take care of ourselves.”
That Salmons feels better doesn’t mean he believes the Highlanders will be an easy opponent. Quite the opposite.
“They’ll play hard and they’re good,” Salmons said of Huntington High, which lost to Hurricane 21-9 at home last week. “They’re well coached and have good players. They have a lot of speed and can run it or throw it.”
Cabel Midland, meanwhile, mostly runs it. When the Knights hand off, usually it’s to Jakob Cuadill, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior bull of an all-state running back who carried 15 times for 197 yards and four touchdowns last week. He teams with Isaiah Vaughn to form one of the state’s better running tandems, even with an offensive line with four new starters.
“We had the four new offensive lineman, a new starter at tight end, a new starter at quarterback, new linebackers,” Salmons said. “We made some mistakes, but everything is correctable.”
The Knights and Highlanders usually meet late in the season in their battle for the shield. Playing one another so early is unusual, but Salmons said he likes it this year because so much uncertainty abounds as for whether the rest of the season will be played.
“Playing them early is different, but it’s good,” Salmons said. “It’s a different challenge, but we’ll roll with it.”