HUNTINGTON,W.Va. -- No. 1 Huntington was tested early Saturday by No. 16 Lewis County, but defense and an opportunistic offense in the second half propelled the Highlanders to a 31-7 win against the Minutemen in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs at Bob Sang Stadium.
The Highlanders (11-0) grabbed a 7-0 lead on their first possession when senior Nick Tubbs took a toss 84 yards around the corner and down the sideline. Lewis County's defense appeared to calm down after allowing the big play, forcing Huntington into two punts and an interception on its next three possessions.
"Lewis County came out and played their guts out in the first half," Huntington coach Billy Seals said. "They played really, really hard. We didn't take care of the football. We did dumb things in the first half."
The interception gave the Minutemen (7-4) the ball deep in Huntington territory at the 14-yard line. Three plays later senior Dustin Martin found the end zone from 9 yards out and a Riley Gunter extra point made it 7-7 late in the first half.
Just when it appeared the momentum had swung in Lewis County's favor, the Highlanders hit another big play to take control of the game going into the second half.
On the first play from scrimmage after the Minutemen tied the game, Huntington's Clark Wilson found Charles Crawford open down the right side for a 66-yard touchdown pass 10 seconds after Martin's touchdown.
"We just wanted to come back and change the momentum real quick," Tubbs said. "We don't ever want to give a team faith they're going to beat us."
Lewis County coach Eddie Vincent said the big play just before halftime set the tone for the Highlanders from that point on.
"It killed us," he said. "We gave up two plays in the first half. Other than those two plays we played great defense in the first half. "
Huntington stuck to the ground game to open the second half. Crawford scored a 29-yard run on the Highlanders' first possession, Stevens connected on a 28-yard field goal and Tubbs got in from 6 yards out. What was a close game to start the quarter was suddenly a 31-7 Huntington lead.
"We're still in the game at halftime but they're very talented and wear you out after a while," Vincent said. "You can only contain them so many times. We had our chance when it was 7-7."
Tubbs was the game's leading rusher with 97 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Crawford added 79 yards and a touchdown on eight carries while Paden Christian had 14 carries for 92 yards. Lewis County quarterback Skylar Carlton led the Minutemen with 59 rushing yards to go with one completion for 13 yards.
Huntington will play No. 8 George Washington in the Class AAA quarterfinals next week after the Patriots survived No. 9 Oak Hill with a 21-14 win in overtime Friday night. Huntington and GW did not play this season.
"I don't care if it's 2-0 come playoff time. A win's a win," Seals said. "If we don't play up to par next week we'll get our brains beat in."
The date and time for the quarterfinals will be determined today at the Secondary School Activities Commission office in Parkersburg.
Contact Tom Bragg at tom.br...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4871.
Saturday November 16, 2013
No. 1 Huntington overcomes slow start, routs No. 16 Lewis County