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HUNTINGTON — Cabell Midland at Huntington High is a big game, but it’s only one game.

Football coaches at both schools said they recognize the importance of the rivalry, but neither said the contest will define their season. The Knights (2-0) and Highlanders (2-0) meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bob Sang Stadium in the Battle for the Shield.

Cabell Midland leads the Shield series 18-7, not including a 2018 Huntington High 14-7 victory in the playoffs, which doesn’t count as a Shield game.

“Obviously, it’s not just another game,” HHS coach Billy Seals said. “It’s a big game. It’s one of the better rivalries in West Virginia. It’s good for the community and both schools. It’s a heated rivalry, but one with a lot of respect for one another.”

Cabell Midland coach Luke Salmons agreed the rivalry is special and that each squad respects the other.

“The thing we have to improve is us,” Salmons said. “We look at every opponent, but we mostly focus on ourselves because we don’t know what they’re going to do. They’re a good football team and it’s a good rivalry.”

Cabell Midland opened with a 28-19 victory at Spring Valley, then blew out Riverside 56-0. Huntington High clobbered Parkersburg 47-7 then hammered Hurricane 38-0 last week. As impressive as all those victories are, neither coach said he’s satisfied.

“We still have a ways to go,” Seals said. “We only played well for three quarters at Hurricane. The kids will be jacked up because of who we’re playing. Whoever executes the best, wins field position and the turnover battle probably wins the game.”

Salmons said his team isn’t where it’s going to be, but his players trust the process.

“We feel like we can get a lot better,” Salmons said. “By week three, week four, you tweak things and move people around. We find a way to get better. You can’t really cheat the grind. It takes a lot of work to be good. We’ll get better. Our kids expect to win, but you have to work for it. They have to earn it.”

Huntington High has been proficient on offense, having passed for 356 yards and rushed for 620. Running back Amari Felder has 222 yards on 17 carries and quarterback Gavin Lochow 219 on 26 attempts. Each has three touchdowns. Lochow is 22 of 31 for 350 yards passing. Noah Waynick has caught six passes for 170 yards.

Cabell Midland, too, has been a force on offense, staying on the ground against Spring Valley, then turning quarterback Ryan Wolfe loose to throw for three TDs vs. Riverside. Mason Moran has run for 242 yards on a mere 13 carries. Jackson Fetty has carried 39 times for 215 yards. Wolfe has completed 6 of 8 passes for 227 yards, all against Riverside.

The winner of the game not only claims the Shield, but a hefty number of playoff points.

“No matter who wins this game, each team will focus on next week,” Seals said. “You can’t allow one game, win or lose, to impact next week’s game. You can’t allow one game to impact two games.”

Tim Stephens is a sports writer with The Herald-Dispatch.

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