CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cabell Midland and Capital, the combatants in tonight's MSAC showdown at Laidley Field, have something in common. They both dropped the ball against No. 1 Huntington.
If not for a case of the dropsies, one or the other could come into today's 7:30 contest unbeaten and holding the top spot in the Class AAA ratings.
Three weeks ago, the Knights (5-1) ran for 325 yards against the Highlanders, but were handed a 19-7 defeat largely because of five fumbles, three of which they lost.
Last week, the Cougars (4-1) suffered the same fate, forfeiting four of 11 fumbles in a 24-10 setback at Huntington, a game in which they ran for 231 yards.
In each instance, the defensive-minded Highlanders prevailed despite fewer rushing yards and fewer total yards.
"I think that's more fumbles than we've had the last two years,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. "I don't think it was of us being lazy or not disciplined or not taking care of the ball. A lot of other things played into it.
"It's like a golfer staring down a water hazard. He tells himself, 'Don't hit it in the water. Don't hit it in the water.' Then he hits it in the water. We tried so hard not to fumble that we fumbled. They know the importance of hanging on to it. I expect they'll get it straight.''
The No. 7 Knights and No. 8 Cougars have come to expect the unexpected in their series, as they've exchanged close wins on each other's home field the last two years - Midland won 21-13 at Laidley last year, and Capital prevailed 31-29 at Ona in 2011.
"I know Capital hurt themselves last week fumbling the ball and things like that,'' said Knights coach Luke Salmons, "but they can move the ball all over the field. That was just one game and they can put a lot of points on the board. That's how we look at it. We've got to tackle well and get them on the ground. That's our mindset.''
The Cougars can flash a bevy of playmakers in either the running or passing game with backs Kashuan Haley, James Richmond and Silas Nazario, quarterback Tyrhee Pratt and receivers Cliff Pratt and Tyrell Davis.