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Huntington hosts Morgantown in AAA showdown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If nothing else, at least one football team from Huntington or Morgantown will win a game this weekend.

While Marshall and West Virginia are battling for bowl eligibility in college football, Morgantown and Huntington will be fighting for their Class AAA playoff lives in high school football.

That's the situation as the No. 5 Mohigans make the 4-hour-plus trek to the home of the No. 4 Highlanders for a 7:30 kickoff in a quarterfinal matchup tonight.

Both teams sport a 9-2 record and both looked equally impressive in wins over No. 13 Elkins and No. 12 Point Pleasant, respectively, in the first round last week.

"It shows the character and integrity of our kids coming back from taking a butt whipping from Capital," Huntington coach Billy Seals said. "We played pretty well on Friday night. Our offense probably played as well as it has all year long."

Indeed, the Highlanders exploded in dispatching Elkins 69-32. Six different players found the end zone for Huntington and backs Charles Crawford (138 yards) and Nick Tubbs (102) each cleared the century mark in rushing.

"They're fast," Morgantown coach John Bowers explained. "Their four primary ball carriers are gifted. They do a very good job of running the option, getting the ball to the fullback on quick hitters, and they do a nice job getting their ball carriers into space and make you try to tackle. That's a challenge. We must gang tackle to the football."

The Highlanders are a run-by-committee offense as four different players enter tonight with over 500 yards rushing, led by Paden Christian with 773 yards and eight touchdowns and Mark Shaver with 627 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Mohigans, on the other hand, have developed a committee-style attack out of necessity after Chazzy Thomas was injured in the next-to-last game of the year.

Morgantown sure seems to have adjusted well, as Shane Commodore (13 rushes, 153 yards) and Alex Weidman (nine carries, 148 yards) more than picked up the slack in last week's 49-28 win over the Big Blacks.

"That shows what kind of program they are," Seals said, "when they lose a kid that's a phenomenal runner like Chazzy Thomas and just keep plugging away. They sure don't look like a different program. They're still doing the same thing scheme-wise. They're so good up front."

Both coaches dismissed the long trip as having any effect on the game, and in fact it was Bowers' decision to have the Mohigans make the long journey on a Friday night.

"We play on Friday nights throughout the whole season," Bowers said. "The kids get up on Friday and go to school just like they normally would. We'll get part way and get some lunch at Charleston. We'll do some walk-throughs at Laidley Field and hopefully we'll get off the bus with a determined, focused mentality and the kids will come out ready to play. It's playoff time, so that shouldn't be a problem."

The survivor faces the winner of No. 1 Cabell Midland and No. 8 Spring Valley in the semifinals.

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.

 


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