HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The Huntington High defense played the role of a rubber band Friday night as the Highlanders topped rival Cabell Midland 19-7 for their first win in the series in three seasons.
The Huntington defense stretched and bent in front of an overflow crowd estimated at 7,000 as the Knights rolled to 341 rushing yards, but on almost every occasion when Midland threatened to score, the snapping of that band resulted in turnovers of numerous varieties.
"We were there. We showed up," Huntington senior defensive tackle Nigale Cabell said after the win.
Cabell sparked the first Highlander touchdown when he popped Midland quarterback Coy Pettit on the first snap of the game to force the first of five Knight fumbles. Just five plays later, Huntington senior fullback Paden Christian plowed into the end zone to give his team a 6-0 lead.
Huntington (4-0), ranked No. 1 in the initial Class AAA playoff ratings, never trailed, but few on the Highlander sideline exhaled until after Charles Crawford ripped off a 54-yard touchdown run with 3:52 left in the game that produced the final score.
"We didn't want them to even get those runs," Cabell said of Midland's rushing total. "They got that, but we had to get them in the middle. We couldn't let them get outside of us. We had to form-tackle. We couldn't let them break tackles so there was no arm tackling. We had to focus on that kind of thing tonight because they can run the ball."
The opening drive turned out to be a harbinger for Midland (3-1), which came into the game in a four-way tie at No. 2 in the playoff ratings. On the Knights' second drive, kicker Sawyer Adkins had the first of two field goal attempts blocked. The same fate doomed Midland's third possession and Pettit lost a fumble at the Huntington 20 late in the first half.
"We fumbled the ball. We talked about it all week: We can't fumble the ball," Midland coach Luke Salmons said. "Most of them were like . . . you know. They weren't like they got hit hard, we just didn't hold on to the ball."
Midland led the yardage battle at halftime 174-90.