Capital closes with a flourish
HUNTINGTON - Coming into Friday night's game at Huntington, one team desperately needed a win to solidify its playoff standing while the other was pretty much locked in where it was.
Once action started, it sure wasn't hard to tell which team was which.
Capital was the more aggressive team from the get-go as the Cougars shut down the No. 3 Highlanders early and often en route to a 48-18 victory at Bob Sang Field.
The Cougars more than clinched a berth into the Class AAA playoffs, they may have also established themselves as the most dangerous team in the state.
Capital coach Jon Carpenter said his team has shown a lot of maturity in winning four out of five games since back-to-back 3-point losses to South Charleston and Hurricane.
"If we win those two games I don't think we're as good as we are right now," Carpenter said. "There's a lot of mistakes we wouldn't have tried to finish. We'd have been sitting around drinking Dr Pepper, eating Oatmeal Pies, and celebrating instead of trying to get better."
If nothing else, the Cougars certainly may be the hottest team entering the postseason after beating Class AAA top-10 teams in the last three weeks to close out the season, all in convincing fashion.
James Richmond had a big hand in helping that string continue Friday, rushing for 122 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns while adding 49 yards receiving on four catches.
"We don't like taking losses," Richmond said. "We decided then that we aren't going to take any more losses and we came out here and played with our all."
Early on Friday, Capital could absolutely do no wrong.
The Cougars scored as many touchdowns in the first half (three) as Huntington had first downs.
In fact, Capital squeezed the Highlander offense to the tune of just 44 total yards in the first half. Highlander quarterback Mark Shaver accounted for 20 of those yards through the air but managed just 1-of-7 passing, including two interceptions.
It wasn't enough that Huntington couldn't help itself when it had the ball, but the offense actually hurt the defense as well.
Consider that on Capital's three first-half touchdown drives, its average starting field position was the Huntington 28-yard line.
Kashuan Haley set up the first score with a 55-yard punt return and quarterback Tyhree Pratt hit Tyrell Davis from 7 yards out three plays later. Haley later added a 4-yard scoring run after taking over after a Paden Christian fumble.
Even when Capital appeared to mess up, it was often able to save itself. Penalties put Capital in a 2nd-and-goal situation from the Huntington 34-yard line, but after a 13-yard pass from Pratt to Davis, Pratt found his older brother Cliff Pratt, who made a juggling, tiptoe catch at the pylon to give the Cougars an improbable third score and a commanding 21-0 lead.
The offense didn't slow down as Capital - playing the second half without Haley, who injured his leg on the first play of the third quarter - rolled up 407 total yards. The Cougars' 48 points was by far the most Huntington (8-2) had allowed in a game all season and was more than half its total points allowed in the nine games before (79).
"The bottom line is this - we got our butts kicked tonight," Huntington coach Billy Seals said. "I got outcoached, it's my fault. I didn't get the job done on the defensive side of the ball.
"They're a good football team, we just didn't play real well on any three phases of the game tonight. That's the worst we've played all year, no doubt about it."
Both of Richmond's touchdowns came in the second half on runs of 20 yards and 1 yard while Davis added a 5-yard touchdown run. The brothers Pratt connected again on a 30-yard score to close the scoring for Capital.
Tyhree Pratt ended an efficient 12 for 20 for 200 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Payton Johnson returned one of those interceptions for 15 yards and a score for Huntington's lone first-half score.
Nick Tubbs and Christian had third-quarter scoring rushes from 5 and 2 yards out, respectively, for the Highlanders. Charles Crawford led all Huntington rushers with 58 yards on nine carries.
Both teams will await their final playoff fate. Capital may have assured itself a first-round home game while Huntington isn't likely to fall out of the top four.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.