Knights face big test at Capital
ONA — On Sept. 16 of the 2017 high school football season, Capital scored on the last play of the game to defeat Cabell Midland 55-49.
The Knights likely will be thrilled if Friday’s 7:30 p.m. contest at UC Stadium/Laidley Field in Charleston comes down to the final play again. Cabell Midland (2-2) enters the game reeling off consecutive losses of 35-7 to Spring Valley and 40-10 at Hurricane. Maybe the last team the Knights needs to play is Capital (4-0), a team that pounded Hurricane 49-10 two weeks ago.
Neither of Cabell Midland’s last two games were close for long, as the Timberwolves and Redskins quickly jumped to big leads. Hurricane scored on its first five possessions last week and for the game rushed for 167 yards and passed for 143. Those numbers don’t bode well for a defense that must face Capital’s potent offense that averages 38.5 points per game, led by senior quarterback Kerry Martin Jr., who has committed to West Virginia University.
Last season, Martin threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Pittman on the game’s final play to beat Cabell Midland. Martin completed 15 of 20 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 88 yards and two scores.
Martin probably lpkes what he sees when he looks at the Knights’ defensive statistics from last week. Hurricane quarterback Nathan Roy completed 8 of 10 passes for 143 yards and four touchdowns. Tailback Christian Hill rushed for 147 yards on 29 carries.
For the Knights to have a chance, they’ll need to cut down on penalties. They committed 11 for 119 yards last week and one nullified an 85-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Vaughn. Two holding penalties inside the 20-yard line led Cabell Midland to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Cameron Grobe rather than a potential touchdown.
For the season, Cabell Midland has been penalized 43 times for 446 yards, to 22 for 191 for the Knights’ opponents.
A bright spot for the Knights is they were able to move the ball against Hurricane, with senior tailback Ivan Vaughn gaining 181 yards on 28 attempts. Cabell Midland put together drives of 11,10, nine and nine plays, but fumbled twice, and often was saddled with poor field position.
The Knights’ offense remains potent, averaging 277.5 yards rushing per game and 102.2 passing. Cabell Midland backs average 7.8 yards per attempt. Ivan Vaughn, a first-team all-stater, has carried 75 times for 716 yards this season.
The offense, though, is different than in past years. It incorporates more passing and features primarily Vaughn carrying the ball, rather than a host of talented runners the Knights have rostered in recent seasons.
“It’s different,” Cabell Midland coach Luke Salmons said. “It’s going to take some time.”
The defense is a greater concern. A ball-control team for years, the Knights and their opponents have nearly the same time of possession this season. Foes also have 63 first downs to Cabell Midland’s 56 and are succeeding on third down conversions at a 45 percent rate.
CABELL MIDLAND (2-2)
AT CAPITAL (4-0)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: UC Stadium/Laidley Field, Charleston
RADIO: 97.9-FM The River