BY WES MCKINNEY

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Huntington head coach Billy Seals has had one specific goal in mind all season.

“Our motto all year has been: 14,” Seals said. “We just wanted an opportunity to play in 14 games. It didn’t matter if we were 10-3 or 13-0 going into that 14th game. Here we are with that opportunity.”

The top seeded Highlanders (13-0) will play in that 14th game — the Class AAA state championship game — against No. 2 Martinsburg (12-1) after getting past Wheeling Park last week in the semifinal round.

It was a matchup last week where Huntington got going offensively at just the right time.

“I thought offensively we played as well as we had in four or five weeks, especially in the first half,” Seals said. “We felt like we dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the first half. When you hold a team to one first down in the first half, you are going to have an opportunity to jump out in the lead.”

Huntington vaulted to a 21-0 lead in the first half on touchdown runs by the trio of Charles Crawford, Paden Christian and Nick Tubbs.

After Wheeling Park batted back in the second half to trail 27-21, Huntington defensive back Stefan Gibbs sealed the game with a pick-six with 40 seconds left to preserve the win.

While 21 points are the most the Highlanders defense has surrendered all year, the 34 points offensively were the most they had scored since week nine of the regular season against St. Albans when they put 56 on the board.

Joshua Walker, Michael Switzer Design Works

Huntington will play for the state title on Saturday against three-time defending state champion Martinsburg.

But it’s an even bigger challenge on Saturday against the three-time defending state champions.

“This group has been there for four straight years,” Seals said of Martinsburg. “That’s the first concern. They have been there and we haven’t. I hope we handle that well. You can watch five minutes of film and find a number of guys that you have know to where they are at, at all times.”

The Bulldogs possess more than standout signal caller Malique Watkins. In their semifinal win against Capital, running back Deamonte Lindsay collected 114 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.

“I think the biggest thing for them is that they have tremendous special teams,” Seals said. “I know playing them two years ago their special teams were great. They are well-rounded in all three phases of the game.”

The Highlanders and Bulldogs squared off two years ago in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs with Martinsburg winning 46-7.

What has also excited Seals this season has been the outstanding involvement from the city of Huntington.

“You can tell we have a ton of support by just driving around town and seeing the number of signs on businesses that say, ‘Good luck this weekend, Go Highlanders,’” Seals said. “Our community has bought into the program. To me, that has been very satisfying. Our community has been tremendous with big crowds throughout every game. We are happy that Huntington is proud of its football team.”

As usual, Seals will have a business-like approach with his team as Saturday draws closer.

“We will head up (to Wheeling) Friday morning at 10,” Seals said. “We will have practice once we get up there, have dinner and then enjoy the Wayne-Bridgeport game as a team for a little bit Friday night. Once we have our meetings Friday night, the hay is in the barn.”

Martinsburg, meanwhile, has won 15 straight playoff games and 35 straight games against West Virginia opponents.

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Comments

  • Bob

    Marshall is playing Martinsburg for the title?

  • Herd98

    WOW, I have watched HHS play all year and have not seen one other team in this state that plays as good of defense. They are fast and aggressive,seeking contact, craving the turnover. Martinsburg is tough and will be a true challenge for a title. It seems that everyone see's 3 titles WOW they cant be stopped, they beat this team, they beat that team. It does not matter now does it. HHS is loaded with talent. You talk of Martinburgs speed, well HHS has plenty as well. Coach Seals has done something in Huntington that should happen every season. The talent in this community is crazy but the kids dont get the training or guidance they need. I believe HHS will be a team to beat for many years with Seals in command. I think most of you guys dont give enough credit to the kids at HHS, they have found a way to win all year, and they will again. Highlanders take the title.

    • 1prouddog

      Herd98....that's why they play the game!! I'm glad you got to watch a quality football team play this year. Saturday you will see TWO quality teams playing and ONE of them has been the state champion THREE times in a row! Sad this doesn't mean anything to you but Cabell Midland had a undefeated team last year and got beat! Martinsburg also has plenty of talent for years to come...How else do you think they've played in eight STATE TITLE GAMES since 2001??!! I hardly think this will happen for Huntington. If they're as good as you think then why hasn't Doc signed them up at Marshall??? I hope you don't bet your house on the game! LOL

      • Herd98

        Im real happy for you eastern panhndle folks and the cloud of delusion you live in. Obvioulsy there is talent up that way, no doubt, and as I said it looks as if Martinsburg's coach has been able to guide them into becoming a good team and how to best use their talents. Bet let me tell you that Coach Seals has been the first to come in and do the same and this is the result. The Kanawha Valley especially Charleston and Huntington have and always have had large amounts of athletic ability. Lets see Randy Moss, OJ Mayo, Patrick Patterson, Jason Williams. Sure most besides Randy where basketball but show me that in your neck of the woods. As I said the talent is here and with the guidance of a good coach HHS has the ability to be in the same spot Martibnsburg is right now.

        • Billy

          Cloud of delusion? The delusion is that future pro athletes are locks for high school championships. Jason Williams, Randy Moss, and Bobby Howard (played for the bears) all played for Dupont and lost the '94 state basketball championship, to Martinsburg I might add.

          • Scott

            That's a great comment...and funny. Well played sir

          • EP Haters

            I was posting this same thought earlier, but didn't have time to finish.

          • Herd98

            Point being these guys went somewhere. That Martinsburg team does not ring any bells for players making it to the NBA or NFL? And I suspect you have a team that was better than the HHS team with Mayo and Patterson that won a few state titles? I have never understood why parts of this state seem to feel their location makes them superior at everything? There will be the crass comebacks trying to show your superior knowledge of all things important, but in the end it's simple ignorance and blatent arrogance. It has and will never change. Might I also add that the HHS team has made this turn around with 0 contraversey, no rumors, no arrests, simply with hard work and quality coaching. Im sure you can explain away why that has not been the case in your area right?

  • Jay

    Martinsburg is the likely target for the 4peat. Huntington proved to me they can play by knocking off Park like they did, but they almost lost it. Martinsburg for the 4peat.

  • jfk

    Being an old Charleston High boy I am rooting for Huntington to end this Martinsburg dominance!

  • Cooper

    Wishing all the teams and fans safe travels and gr8 games this weekend. It's cliche, but making it to the island is an accomplishment! Winning the championship is everyone's goal but being able to play this gr8 game of football is what it's all about. Play hard and play every down likes its your last.

  • Glenn

    Snow late Friday evening in Wheeling and lasting through Friday night, should be interesting on Saturday, they should have time to clean it up by 12pm Saturday. Good luck to the Bulldogs of Martinsburg!!!! for another great season and an amazing run of three straight state AAA championship's bring another one home to the Eastern Panhandle!!!!

  • 1prouddog

    Congratulations to the DOGS and HHS for making the SHIP and providing a great high school football season! It should be a fun game to watch! DOGS 4peat!! 28-14...Let the fat lady sing!!!!!! smile

  • Charleston,WV

    If you're going to the game make sure you bring your rain gear!!!!

    • EP Haters

      No rain Saturday. High of 30-31, partly cloudy. 20% of precipitation.

      Football weather! The pads will be crackin!

    • Larry

      Actually a parka may be better, just supposed to be cold Saturday, no rain.

  • EP Haters

    Might be tight in the 1st half, but the coaches/players in the orange and black will figure out the weak spots and attack. Too much speed to the edges, and teams get tired of chasing them down.

    • Just in case

      I think HHS will show up. If it is all the same to you I am quite sure the kids would like the chance to play the game. Buy the way I think the visiting team has to wear their white uniforms and I hope you are correct the team in predominantly Black uniforms earns a victory over your 3 time defending State Champion Program!! To be the best you have to beat the best and the Burg has been THE BEST at least for the last 3 years! IMO it is time for a change! No disrespect intended. Go Highlanders!!!
      HHS 31 MHS28

      • Mburgfan

        Change should not happen just for the sake of change - hopefully change brings better, Since Martinsburg is the better of the two teams, no change will occur this year. Best of luck to both teams and I hoping in the end Martinsburg brings the hardware back to the Panhandle - it belongs there (smile).

  • DWM

    I don't think you can bet against the Dogs. They have a talented team, because of their out of state schedule, they have played in many tight games, and they have players that know how to win big games.

    I'd assume it will be the Dogs again.

  • EP Power

    Going to be a close game. Special teams could very well be the difference.

  • GoDogs

    Last year in the AAA Title game, we sat near the HHS coaching staff.....on the MHS side, of course, rooting against Midland. At the end of the game, they congratulated us on the victory and the last thing they said was "We hope we get a shot at you guys here next year."

    Well as it works out, here we are. I wish you and your players health and a safe travel.

    • GW

      I'd love to see the Dogs win their 4th title in a row after a life spent knowing that the Eastern Panhandle had zero shot of ever winning a state FB title. Im proud of them but Capital could have won last Saturday. They certainly came closer than any team in the State has in the last 4 years to doing so. I am heartened that when their backs were against the wall late in the 4th Q they put that backbreaking TD on the board. Maybe that was the expeareance factor but it showed heart for sure and should reinforce team confidence. Having said that Hunington beat Capital convincingly and are a legit 1 seed and must know they have a huge shot at the AAA title.I guarantee you Coach Walker knows Huntington is very very real.

      • EP Haters

        Gotta throw the red flag in on this one. The 2nd title against GW and Switzer was the closest, in my opinion. I honestly think the game wasn't as close last Saturday as everyone says. There's a lot of coach speak going on about that Capital game, but the truth is that Martinsburg took their foot off of the gas in the 2nd half with the lead and started to work the clock. They didn't run a single pass play in the 2nd half.

        Martinsburg hit them in the mouth on the opening kickoff, scored immediately, then got a turnover on a pooch kick. Those pooches are designed to be recovered by the them as much as they are to prevent a return. Then they scored immediately and kept Capital on the ropes. Once they get up 2-3 TDs in the 2nd half....it's all about game/clock management.

      • 1prouddog

        Well said EP Haters....GW you need to look at the stats.of the Capital/HHS game. You sound like you follow h.s.football. With that said...How many teams are going to win a football game by turning the ball over 11 times??? Capital lost the game because that is what they did! You can't win that way and I can guarentee you that will not happen to Martinsburg this weekend! DOGS-28 HHS-14

        • Fall fan

          11 fumbles forced by the aggressive hhs defense that had Pratt and Haley and the rest of the cougar offense shook up. They didnt look that shook up against the bulldogs. Should be a great game, lets get poppin!

          • 1prouddog

            rest assured Martinsburg will NOT be shook up with ANYTHING hhs does! Afterall we don't have THREE state titles by being shook up! Oh I'm scared!!!! LOL

        • HHS

          Capital turned the ball over 5 times (4 fumbles, 1 INT) against HHS, and HHS had two turnovers themselves. I don't know why the Martinsburg articles keep mentioning the fact that Capital fumbled 11 times... when they recovered 7 of them. Just to downplay HHS's victory, I know... but there's a big difference there.

          Should be a good game.

          • Fall fan

            1proudfog, you shouldn't be scared especially if you are a player, hopefully you aren't and are just a fan.. Lol. By shook up i meant not able to handle the constant pressure.

          • Fall fan

            Game is going exactly how i figured it may. Hhs defense is the best in the state and hhs offense is horrible. I said in another post that the hhs ground front would not work against martinsburg. Hhs inability to throw has been apparent all year. They can't throw but still try and the results are the same, no reception and interceptions. There is a qb that is a sophomore that cant throw it. If you cant throw, run it, don't throw int's. run Crawford and Christian. Tubbs dances too much. Penalties!!!!! This is a battle of defense. Martinsburg has the edge because of huntington being one diminsional. They knew going into it all they had to do was stop the run. It seems in the third quarter hhs got going offensively, but are killing themselves with trying to throw and penalties! 12 minutes left. I think this is where martinsburg has in the past out games away.

        • Fall fan

          Great game! Couldnt have asked for a better game other than a highlander win. Bulldogs d was good too! We just can't throw. Caught up to us against the champs!!! Congrats!