CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The numbers don't lie. Huntington can flat-out play defense.
Against some of the most prolific offenses in the Mountain State Athletic Conference, the unbeaten Highlanders have stood strong and kept teams out of their end zone.
Huntington (8-0), the No. 1 team in the Class AAA playoff ratings, gets another serious challenge tonight when South Charleston (7-2) pays a visit to Bob Sang Field for a 7:30 kickoff. The Black Eagles, 10th in the ratings, are itching to get into the top eight and earn home-field rights for the first round of the playoffs.
One by one, top offenses have gone up against the Highlanders this season and come away empty-handed.
Aside from their meetings with Huntington, Hurricane rolls up 51.3 points per game, Cabell Midland 50.4 and Capital 43.9. Versus the Highlanders, however, they managed just eight, seven and 10 points, respectively.
"On the defensive side of the ball, I think it's a pride thing,'' said Huntington coach Billy Seals. "Our kids take pride in playing fast defense.
"We love to play those teams averaging 40 or 50 points a game. Our kids are focused more and we understand we have to play great in all three phases to win. Our football team loves Friday night - it's why you play - and fortunately we've played well in big games.''
SC coach Donnie Mays, whose team has been held below 27 points just once this season (a 21-19 win against Parkersburg), can see why the Highlanders have grudgingly permitted only 10 touchdowns in eight games, some of them well after the issue has been decided.
"First of all, they do a real nice job in the red zone,'' Mays said. "They've forced a lot of turnovers in that area. They put you in situations you don't want to be in - like first-and-goal, then they get you in third-and-long.
"In the open field, they do a real nice job of running to the football. They have a lot of team speed and do a lot of open-field tackling, which is huge for defensive coaches, to make sure you tackle well in open space.
"They match up with us very well,'' Mays said. "Both teams have a lot of athletes. They have just as many as we do and their defensive numbers show they can stop about anybody.''