CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Earlier this season, South Charleston football Coach Donnie Mays said the average bystander would be hard-pressed to tell his team apart from Capital if the teams simply traded uniforms.
Mays' counterpart at Huntington High School, Billy Seals, said Wednesday there's some merit to that statement.
"They're very, very explosive. You look at what they do schematically, and it's very similar to Capital," Seals said. "A.D. Cunningham's numbers speak for themselves, so do Kentre Grier's."
Class AAA No. 1 Huntington (8-0) plays host to No. 10 South Charleston (7-2) at 7:30 p.m. today in its continued quest for the school's first unbeaten regular season.
The Highlanders beat Capital (7-1) 24-10 on Oct. 4. While the Cougars and Black Eagles each possess a high amount of athleticism and speed and operate in spread offenses, Seals said there is a key difference that will affect how his defense approaches tonight's game.
"He brings a little different dynamic to the game. I think he's more of a pocket passer," Seals said, comparing Grier to Capital quarterback Tyrhee Pratt.
"That's not saying he can't run with the ball, but he does some great things and is more comfortable throwing from the pocket," Seals said.
A sophomore, Grier (6-foot-3, 160) has completed 122-of-200 passes for 1,754 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. Against Capital, Huntington was able to maximize the agility and speed of sibling defensive ends Arick Nicks (6-5, 245) and Kilan Nicks (6-5, 235) to keep pressure on Pratt as he scrambled to look for open receivers that - against Huntington's stout defense - were rarely open.
The Highlanders have given up a state-best 70 points. Seals said that Grier's ability and the running power of the 6-foot, 210-pound Cunningham (130 carries for 936 yards, 10 TDs) force the focus of Huntington's defense to the middle of the field.
"You've got to have seven in the box," he said. "Really, it's a chess match. We've got to do a great job of disguising the defenses against a team as explosive as South Charleston."
Numerous teams - Capital included, as well as No. 8 Cabell Midland - have outgained Huntington in losses to the Highlanders. Mays said the strength of Huntington's defense is its ability to play well when - and where - it matters most.
"The thing that sticks out to me is their red-zone defense. Some people move the ball on them from 20 to 20," Mays said.
"But once someone gets in there, I can't tell you how many times there's been a turnover.
"That's the thing that everybody's missing out on, is how good their red-zone defense is. They create and benefit from a lot of turnovers in that area."