By Tom Bragg, For Lootpress.com
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The foundation of Huntington High’s rise to join the elite Class AAA football programs in the state over the last decade was built on defense, and in case anyone forgot that fact the Highlanders were happy to remind everyone on Friday.
Huntington forced five turnovers – four of them interceptions – and never let George Washington be a serious threat in a 42-13 win against visiting Mountain State Athletic Conference rival George Washington at Bob Sang Stadium.
The Highlanders (3-0), the defending Class AAA state champions, flexed their defensive muscle early against the Patriots (1-3). GW senior quarterback Abe Fenwick was intercepted by Huntington’s Marcus Dean on the Patriots’ first offensive play of the game to set up Huntington inside the 10-yard line. Three plays later Zah Jackson scored from five yards out.
When GW got the ball back after Huntington’s first touchdown, Fenwick promptly fumbled on the first play of the drive resulting in the Highlanders having the ball deep in Patriots’ territory again. Jackson ran for 21 yards to set up a two-yard touchdown run by Markel Jones as Huntington grabbed a quick 14-0 lead.
“We kept hearing all week how good their offense was, and, you know, we take that personal up here,” Huntington senior receiver/defensive back Wayne Harris said. “The motto going into the game was ‘Shut them down and show everybody the real Huntington.
“We take it real personal. Every week Coach [Billy Seals] says that’s the expectation [strong defense] when you wear a Huntington jersey, so we take it personal.”
The Highlander defense forced a punt on the following drive and the offense went right back to work. Huntington went on a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive capped off by a 1-yard Jackson plunge to make it a 21-0 advantage late in the first quarter.
GW did not, however, roll over when Huntington went up big. Junior running back Keegan Sack had runs of 10 and 17 yards to put the Patriots near midfield then burst through the middle of the line and turned on the jets, running 49 yards to get GW on the scoreboard with seven seconds to play in the opening quarter.
Sack led the Patriots on Friday with 102 rushing yards and the one touchdown on 14 carries Friday.
Huntington added another score in the second quarter when junior quarter Avonte’ Crawford lofted a pass to the back of the end zone for Harris, a Kent State commit, to set the score at 28-7 going into halftime.
The second half, however, began almost exactly the same way the first half did for George Washington. Fenwick dropped back to pass on the first play of the third quarter and was picked off by Harris, who nearly worked his way to the opposite sideline with a clear path to the end zone but was caught from behind by Sack.
Two plays later Crawford and Harris hooked up again, this time for a five-yard touchdown to make it 35-7.
Despite the large lead, Harris and the Highlander defense never took their foot off the pedal Friday. Early in the fourth quarter with GW driving, Fenwick made the mistake of trying to test Harris again with a deep ball. Harris plucked it from the air near his own end zone and raced 95-yards for Huntington’s final touchdown of the game.
“[Harris] is special, man,” Seals said. “Kent State got a steal there. It’s unfortunate all these in-state schools didn’t offer that kid. That kid is a football player. I don’t care about measurables and all that crap, I feel like we’ve got the two best players in the state of West Virginia [Harris and Jackson].”
Jackson led all players Friday with 159 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Harris caught four passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns and had two interceptions along with the long interception return for a touchdown. The Highlanders’ quarterback, Crawford, completed 13 of 22 pass attempts for 155 yards with two touchdown passes and two interceptions of his own.
“I thought we played pretty poor tonight, to be honest with you,” Seals said. “Too many red zone turnovers. Entirely too many penalties. I’m going to have to go watch the film, but holy smokes.”
For GW, Sack’s 102 rushing yards was a team-high, while senior running back Anthony Valentine chipped in with 73 rushing yards and a late touchdown on 13 carries. Fenwick had a night to forget for the Patriots, going 4 of 19 passing the ball for 38 yards and four interceptions.
“[Huntington] had it turned on tonight,” GW coach Steve Edwards said. “That week off last week seemed to help them a little bit. We have a tough road, so we’ll see how we grow up and we’ll see how we can handle it.”
Huntington hosts Capital next Friday while George Washington hits the road for Stadium Field and a date with Parkersburg.
GW 7 0 0 6 – 13
H 21 7 7 7 – 42