Highlanders adjust offense, stymie Knights 14-7 in AAA first round
HUNTINGTON — No one guessed that Brocton Blair was Huntington High’s secret weapon.
Blair, a standout junior linebacker, played running back for the first time this season and gained a team-high 76 yards on 15 carries, with one touchdown, to help No. 7 seed Huntington High defeat 10th-seeded Cabell Midland 14-7 Friday night in the first round of the Class AAA football playoffs at Bob Sang Field. Blair also made 17 tackles as the Highlanders limited the Knights to 188 total yards.
“We changed some things up and went back to our double-wing offense,” HHS coach Billy Seals said. “We went back to doing what we know we do well.”
The victory, the third against Cabell Midland in as many playoff games, sends the Highlanders into next week’s game at No. 2 Spring Valley (11-0), which clobbered Spring Mills 77-7 Friday. The date and time is to be determined.
Huntington High changed its offense enough to be effective. Quarterback Tajhan Blackwell, who spent nearly all of the season lined up in a shotgun formation, came out under center and stayed there. Blackwell handed off to usual runner Diallo Mitchell and flanker Kris Brown, but also to Blair and Bryce Damous, a tight end who had four carries on the season. Damous ran five times for 23 yards on the Highlanders’ first drive before Blair ran seven consecutive times for 39 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown jaunt through the left side to give HHS a 7-0 lead with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
Blair’s touchdown capped a 17-play, 84-yard drive that took 7:46. Huntington High converted all four of its third-down plays during the trek to the end zone.
The Highlanders boosted their lead to 14-0 on a 39-yard touchdown sprint by Mitchell around left end with 6:43 to play in the first half.
The Knights were in HHS territory much of the game and eventually scored when Griffin Adkins swept around left end, then cut back right for a 29-yard touchdown with 6:55 left.
Cabell Midland failed to take advantage of three more chances to score. Linebacker Tierden Berry recovered a Mitchell fumble at the Huntington High 24 and the Knights moved to the 17 before Ivan Vaughn lost 13 yards and Jayce Gould threw an incomplete pass to give the ball back to the Highlanders with 3:58 remaining. Huntington High, however, couldn’t move the ball and Damous kicked an 8-yard punt into a suddenly arising stiff wind to give Cabell Midland the ball at the HHS 38.
After an incomplete pass, Vaughn gained 13 yards, but fumbled and Mitchell recovered with 2:25 to play. The Highlanders possessed the ball until Damous punted to give the Knights possession at the Huntington High 45 with 14 seconds left. Gould and Vaughn, though, threw incompletions to end the game.
“We gutted one out,” Seals said. “We changed some things and that helped us in the first half, then they adjusted and we didn’t do much in the second half. I’m proud of how our guys played and now we move on to the next one.”
The loss likely will stick with Cabell Midland for a while. The Knights defeated Huntington High 21-7 in the regular season. On Friday, they held the Highlanders to 192 yards, just 40 in the second half. Cabell Midland had the ball in HHS territory on two of three possessions in the first half without scoring and on all six second-half possessions.
Huntington High’s defense made key stops throughout, including three times on fourth down. The Knights fumbled four times, losing one. HHS held Vaughn, a 1,700-yard rusher, to 19 yards on 17 attempts. Jakob Caudill gained a team-high 70 yards on 17 carries.
Seals was pleased with the victory, but not with all aspects of it. Huntington High committed five penalties for 55 yards. Two were personal fouls and one an unsportsmanlike conduct.
“We had the ball driving to make it 21-0 and we commit a stupid penalty,” Seals said. “I’m upset about that. We have to stop doing that.”
CABELL MIDLAND 0 0 0 7 — 7
HUNTINGTON HIGH 7 7 0 0 — 14
HH — Blair 4 run (Carpenter kick)
HH — Mitchell 39 run (Carpenter kick)
CM — Adkins 29 run (Grobe kick)
First downs 13 10
Rushes-yards 48-160 42-192
Passes 1-7-0 0-1-0
Passing yards 28 0
Total yards 188 192
Fumbles-lost 4-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-50 5-55
Punts 2-40.5 4-27.0
RUSHING: (CM) Vaughn 17-19, Gould 8-(minus 1), Caudill 17-70, Adkins 8-72. (HH) Brown 3-13, Damous 11-39, D. Mitchell 12-64, Blair 15-76, Blackwell 1-0.
PASSING: (CM) Gould 1-7-0, 28; Vaughn 0-2-0. (HH) Blackwell 0-1-0.
RECEIVING: (CM) Vaughn 1-28.