Will big plays bring Wolves another win?
SPRING VALLEY — Huntington High and Spring Valley likely will combine for about 100 plays Friday night, but fewer than a half-dozen will decide the outcome, said Timberwolves head coach Brad Dingess.
The Class AAA football powers meet at 7:30 p.m. in a playoff quarterfinal at Spring Valley, with the winner advancing to the semifinals next week against No. 3 Capital or No. 11 Hedgesville. The Highlanders come in 8-3 and seeded seventh. The Timberwolves (11-0) are No. 2.
“It will come down to four or five plays the whole game,” Dingess said. “It’s a shame this is a quarterfinal game because it feels like a semifinal game.”
The AAA titans are meeting for the fourth time in two seasons. Last year, Huntington High won the regular-season contest 14-0, but lost 10-7 in the playoffs. A mere two weeks ago, Spring Valley defeated HHS 28-16. That game was roughly even except for two huge plays on defense by Spring Valley’s
Graeson Malashevich, who caused and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and returned an interception 45 yards for a TD.
“Huntington High is a really, really good team,” Dingess said. “We were lucky to come out of the first game with a win. It was a dead-even game without those turnovers.”
Spring Valley held the Highlanders to four yards rushing on 26 carries in the last meeting. The Highlanders, though, have changed their attack, going back to a double-wing offense that features Brocton Blair and Bryce Damous, two players who had combined for just four carries all season until last week when they teamed up for 26 carries for 115 yards in a 14-7 triumph over Cabell Midland.
Cabell Midland had beaten Huntington High in the regular season only to fall to HHS in the playoffs, something Dingess undoubtedly will remind his team of entering Friday’s showdown. Whether the Highlanders have more surprises in store and how much the Timberwolves will adjust from the first meeting could make for interesting football.
“I’m not crazy about playing someone twice, but when you’re in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, it’s good,” Dingess said. “You have to adjust a little bit. You look at what you did well and what you did poorly. I think last year in the second game we had the upper hand a little bit. We’ll see about this time.”
Dingess said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a low-scoring game because both teams feature strong defenses. Spring Valley gives up fewer than 15 points per game and Huntington High just 17 per contest.
“Huntington High’s defense is always good,” Dingess said. “It’s the best defense we’ve played. They’re physical and strong and they have athletes. They really put us in a bind a couple of times the last game. They’re a big, powerful, physical team that plays good defense.”
That also describes the Timberwolves. Which big, strong, powerful team plays better defense for four or five particular plays might decide which team continues in the postseason.
Class AAA quarterfinal
No. 7 HUNTINGTON (8-3) at No. 2 SPRING VALLEY (11-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Radio: ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, 92.7-FM and 98.5-FM The Planet