GAME OF THE WEEK WV FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: CABELL MIDLAND AT HUNTINGTON HIGH
ONA — As far as Cabell Midland High School’s football team is concerned, its victory over Huntington High on Oct. 19 might as well have been a century ago.
The Knights’ 21-7 triumph that night at CMHS’ Castle has little bearing on Friday’s 7:30 p.m. rematch in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs at HHS’ Bob Sang Field. No. 10 seed Cabell Midland (6-4) hopes for a similar result against the seventh-seeded Highlanders (7-3), but Knights coach Luke Salmons said his team will have to play well to earn a victory.
“I haven’t even thought about playing them twice,” Salmons said. “Every team is different. Every game is different. In the playoffs every team is good. Huntington High is good and our kids understand that.”
In the first meeting, Cabell Midland overcame a 7-0 deficit as Jayce Gould ran six yards for a touchdown and Ivan Vaughn ran 29 and 68 yards for TDs. Vaughn carried 28 times for 219 yards and the Knights outgained the Highlanders 415 yards to 189.
“We’re focusing on us,” Salmons said. “If we don’t win, our season is over and our kids don’t want the season to be over. We don’t care about beating them the first time. We’re mentally focused on us.”
The winner of Friday’s showdown
advances to play the victor of Friday’s first-round game featuring No. 15 Spring Mills (5-5) at No. 2 Spring Valley (10-0) in the quarterfinals.
Cabell Midland and Huntington High have met twice in a season before, the last time being 2014. The Knights won the regular-season game 31-26, then lost 28-21 in the playoffs. In 1997, the Highlanders won 26-10 in the regular-season finale, then one week later beat the Knights 19-6 in the first round of the playoffs.
Salmons said the opportunity to play another week is a blessing. He said that he figures neither his team nor HHS will change much from what has led them to making the postseason.
“You always make some adjustments, but you’re going to do that anyway,” Salmons said. “It comes down to attitude and effort, blocking, tackling and taking care of the ball.”
No matter the adjustments, Cabell Midland figures to offer Huntington High’s defense a steady diet of Vaughn, who has rushed for 1,710 yards and 20 touchdowns on 217 carries. Fullback Jakob Caudill also has become a reliable back since being inserted in the lineup six games ago, running 68 times for 398 yards.
“Ivan has played well and Caudill has been a new addition,” Salmons said. “Jakob has runs hard and blocks great.”
Cabell Midland’s defense has become a force since early season struggles left the Knights with a 2-3 record. The Knights have won four of their last five, thanks in part to a defense that has given up just 50 points, 36 of those in an eight-point loss at Belfry.
“Our defense has played really well,” Salmons said. “Collectively, everybody is playing well. (Linebacker Tierdin) Berry has made a bunch of plays. Devin Ferguson has 16 tackles for loss. Our special teams have improved a lot. It’s hard to say that one guy has improved the most. All have worked hard and are good teammates.”
Both teams are in the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
“They have good talent and coaches and they’re a good program,” Salmons said of HHS. “They play good football. They’re going to go hard and so are we.”