Can Wolves risk falling behind early?
SPRING VALLEY — No doubt, Huntington High’s football team studied every facet of the Spring Valley vs. Point Pleasant game from last week.
The Highlanders (7-2), rated sixth in Class AAA, visit the No. 2 seed Timberwolves (9-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a key high school football game that could determine the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship and playoff seedings.
Spring Valley has rarely been challenged this season, but fell behind Class AA No. 8 Point Pleasant 27-14 at halftime last week as the Big Blacks exploited holes in the Timberwolves defense and, for a while, took away the power running game.
Point Pleasant quarterback Cason Payne threw quick passes to receivers who ran short, sit-down routes or slants to effectively move the ball.
HHS quarterback Tajhan Blackwell is adept at such an attack, targeting receivers Kris Brown, Bryce Damous and Johronimo Mitchell,
who have combined for 41 receptions for 712 yards and seven touchdowns. Huntington High prefers to run the ball behind a talented and massive offensive line, but will take what the defense gives.
Spring Valley coaches said last week’s first half was frustrating, but they were pleased with how the players adjusted and scored 44 consecutive points in the second half.
Point Pleasant coach Dave Darst said he was pleased overall, but any team playing the Timberwolves faces a monumental task.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Darst said. “We scored 34 points, the most anyone has scored on them all year. That showed a lot of heart.”
The Highlanders, too, will need to play with heart, something they haven’t done to the degree expected by coach Billy Seals in recent weeks. Less than a great effort against Spring Valley could lead to an embarrassing blowout, especially since the Timberwolves are motivated by clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a triumph.
Huntington High is also playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs, hoping to secure at least two home postseason games with a victory.
Huntington High has dominated the series in recent seasons, winning five of the last six regular-season contests, with the lone loss 35-34 in overtime in 2014. The Highlanders won 14-0 in the 2017 season-opening game, but fell 10-7 in the playoffs, sending Spring Valley to the state championship game and leaving a bitter taste in HHS’ collective mouths. That playoff loss sparked a bevy of Twitter chatter involving players from both squads and that likely hasn’t been forgotten.