Capital holds on to down Huntington High
CHARLESTON — With a pregame aerial show from the Army’s Golden Knights parachuters, a celebration of 30 years of Capital’s existence and Homecoming festivities, there couldn’t be more hype surrounding Friday’s Class AAA, top-five scuffle between No. 3 Huntington High and the No. 5 Cougars at UC Stadium.
For much of the game Friday night, Capital lived up to that hype and then some until a late Huntington High rally finally provided the game most expected.
The Cougars (6-1) built a lead that reached as high as 30-7 to end the third quarter, but had to hold on and come up with a miracle play by K.J. Taylor in the closing minutes to hold on for a 30-22 win in the battle for the C&O Bell.
Huntington High seemed to have Capital in dire straits facing a third-and-35 from its own 11 after the Highlanders had just scored and gotten a two-point conversion to cut a once large deficit to one possession at 30-22. That situation seemed more bleak once Capital quarterback Kerry Martin was picked by Kris Brown at the Cougars 48-yard line. But K.J. Taylor reached a hand in and stripped the ball before pouncing on it, giving Capital the most unlikely of first downs and providing a large home crowd a needed sigh of relief.
Huntington High rose to the occasion once again however,
forcing an ensuing three-and-out and taking over at its own 19 with 2:06 to play.
But after Brown caught a second down pass, he fumbled again. Finally sending the Cougars on their way.
Capital only ran 24 plays in the first half, gathering 138 yards on those snaps, but got a 57-yard interception return from Deondray Thomas, a safety and a 2-yard touchdown dive from Kalai Clark on the ensuing possession with a short field to bury Huntington High in a 23-0 hole late in the first half.
The Highlanders would respond late in the second quarter with TaJhan Blackwell connecting with Diallo Mitchell on a 19-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 47.5 seconds left until the break, but by then the hill to climb was much too steep, especially against a Cougars defense playing inspired football.
Things started OK enough for the visitors with Huntington High taking the opening kickoff and marcing to the Capital 44-yard line. But Mitchell was hit hard after a 4-yard run and the ball popped up into the air and into the hands of Thomas in a big, early shift of momentum.
Capital went right to work, driving 60 yards in 10 plays capped by a 3-yard touchdown from Kerry Martin to Quieshan Gray to give the Cougars an early 7-0 advantage.
That score would hold until early in the second quarter when a Blackwell throw on third and five from the Huntington High 47 was batted up into the air and into the arms of Thomas who followed a convoy down the home sideline and into the end zone to put the Cougars up 14-0.
The team’s then traded punts, but Capital’s got a nice hop, rolling dead inside the Huntington High 1-yard line. Mitchell was swarmed under in the end zone on the next play to put Capital up 16-0 and set up a short, 40-yard drive for another score.
Both teams struggled offensively after the half, four punts and a turnover on downs accounting for the teams’ first five combined possessions.
But Blackwell was picked off on the first play of the Highlanders’ third drive of the quarter, just after a facemask penalty had set Huntington High up in good field position at its own 41.
Four plays later, Kerry Martin connected with Kerrion Martin for a 44-yard touchdown strike to put Capital up 30-7.
But with hope bleak, the Highlanders (6-1) got going starting with a long interception return on the last play of the third quarter by Geronimo Mitchell to set Huntington High up at the Capital 28-yard line.
On the sixth play in the ensuing drive, Diallo Mitchell pounded in from the 3-yard line to cut the score to 30-14.
Still, the game seemed well in hand as the Cougars drove deep into Huntington High territory before turning it over on downs at the Highlander 30.
However, two plays later, Blackwell found Geronimo Mitchell wide open in the right flat and he sprinted all the way down to the 2-yard line, setting up a 3-yard plunge from Blackwell. The Highlanders quarterback also dove in on the ensuing two-point conversion to try to cut the deficit.
Capital improved to 7-3 against Huntington High in 10 meetings under Highlanders coach Billy Seals and exacted a bit of revenge after a 24-21 defeat in Huntington a year ago.