Cabell Midland’s Doug Melton celebrates a Knights touchdown against Spring Valley during the semifinals of the West Virginia Class AAA football playoffs on Nov. 29 at Cabell Midland High School in Ona.

ONA — For the seventh time in the past ten seasons, at least one team local high school football team will play for a state championship in the Super Six at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The Cabell Midland Knights took care of business Friday night with a convincing 31-0 shutout victory over visiting Spring Valley, earning a spot it the Class AAA title game for the first time since 2012, capping off the most successful decade of football in almost 40 years.

Midland advances to play the three-time defending champion Martinsburg Bulldogs.

“Martinsburg is pretty good, everybody knows that, but some of the best football in the state is being played right here in our area,” Cabell Midland head coach Luke Salmons said. “We had two of the best teams in the state on this field tonight.”

“That’s good for both schools, good for the community, it’s good for everybody involved.”

Cabell Midland’s success this year, combined with the dominance of Spring Valley for the past three seasons in Class AAA puts a cap on what has become the most dominant decade of football in the region in 40 years.

There’s a long, storied tradition of football in the Tri-State dating back to the dominance of the Ceredo-Kenova Wonders’ high school football team from the 1960s until the early 1980s, who appeared in 12 and won nine Class AA championship games in 19 seasons.

In that same time, the Huntington High Highlanders (Class AAA) competed for a title in 1964 and 1966, and the Crum Mountaineers played in the Class A championship game in 1965 and 1966.

Fast forward to the 2010s, and the Wayne Pioneers have claimed two Class AA championships in three appearances since the start of the decade, the Tolsia Rebels finished as runners-up in their final season in Class AA (2015), and in Class AAA, Spring Valley played in three straight title games from 2016-2018, the Highlanders made an appearance in 2013, and Cabell Midland has appeared in the Super Six twice, once in 2012 and this season.

“This Huntington area is pretty good right now. Very competitive. Except for that one team up there playing in the panhandle, I’d argue this is the best football being played anywhere in the state,” Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess said, adding that coaching against good rivals (Cabell Midland, Huntington) makes his job even more entertaining from year to year.

Salmons said there are never any easy wins against teams like SVHS or HHS and each program can’t afford to bring anything but their best to the playing field when they match up against one another.

“You can’t be average against these teams, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every time you line up against each other and be great in all positions,”said Salmons. “In this area, you could lose two or three games a year and still be one of the best teams in the state.”

The Knights were great in all phases of the game last Friday night, holding the Timberwolves under 200 yards of total offense, and scoring twice on interception returns for touchdowns. An impressive defensive effort kept the Wolves out of sync and off the scoreboard entirely.

“It just seemed like we were one block, one play away sometimes but we couldn’t sustain anything,” Dingess said.

The Timberwolves finished the season with an 11-2 record, both losses coming to undefeated (13-0) Cabell Midland. Now, the Knights are tasked with accomplishing what no Mountain State Athletic Conference team has been able to do this decade — defeat the Bulldogs in Wheeling.

Martinsburg has defeated four different MSAC teams in six state championship games since 2011: thrice against Timberwolves, and once each over Huntington, Cabell Midland, George Washington in the championship game. The Bulldogs defeated Brooke in 2010 and missed out on the title game in 2014 and 2015.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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