HUNTINGTON - When No. 1 takes on No. 1, there is always the chance you get a "Super Bowl" like let-down.
Often, the game does not and cannot live up to expectations.
That was not the case at Huntington High's Bob Sang Stadium on Friday night, when No. 1 Cabell Midland took on No. 1 Huntington in the 17th annual "Battle of the Shield" for the Knights and Highlanders, respectively.
The Knights won a controversial game over the Highlanders, 14-13, on a blocked extra-point, made originally but blocked on the re-kick when Cabell Midland was called for offsides.
That is the correct call in high school, blowing the play dead, just like illegal procedure by the offense.
But late in the game, Midland was WAY offsides on a 33-yard field goal attempt for the win by Huntington's Zach Stephens, with Tyler Hayes blocking the kick to keep the score 14-13, although the Highlanders would still get one more chance before time ran out.
It was like a championship boxing match, with both teams going hard, making mistakes and making big plays with so much riding on the rivalry of two teams, with Midland now taking an 11-6 lead in the all-time series, back to 1996, and having a five-game win streak over Huntington.
The schools are only 20 minutes apart, both are in Cabell County and both were undefeated and ranked number one coming in to the annual game for the first time anyone could remember.
"We didn't make enough plays to win the football game," said Huntington coach Billy Seals after the game. "I'm not going to get into officiating.
"On the field goal, we did think the player was offsides, in the neutral zone, but the officials are not going to catch them all, the officials did a good job.
"I would not use that as an excuse, because it was a well played game between two good teams that came down to we had a field goal blocked and we had an extra-point blocked."
The game started slow, like the two teams were feeling each other out and also remembering last year's game came down to a 31-30 win in overtime for Midland in Ona.
Huntington struck first in the game, scoring on a 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter by quarterback Mark Shaver to put the Highlanders up, 7-0, with about nine minutes left in the half.
The score spurred Cabell Midland, who put together its best drive of the half with a 7-play, 66-yard march, topped off by Lowell Farley one-yard touchdown, his seventh of the year.
Farley also had a 16 yard run in the drive, and David Gaydosz picked up another 25 on a pitch-and-catch from his quarterback, Coy Petitt.
After no scoring for the first 14 minutes of the game, just over four minutes of play in the second quarter led to the game being tied 7-7 and would stay that way until the halftime.
Both teams had suffered two turnovers each in the first half, and Huntington had gained only 111 yards of offense to 140 for Cabell Midland.
Petitt hit 2-of-3 in the first half, but for only 25 yards to Gaydosz.
Shaver had hit his first pass of the game, then missed on the next eight in a row, while throwing two interceptions in the second and third quarters.
Both team counted up nine first downs in the half, and both let good scoring opportunities go by the boards.
"That's how you win sometimes, everyone gives you their best shot and that's how you win," said Luke Salmons, the Cabell Midland head coach.
"You win sometimes like this, sometimes by 20 and other times by bunches. We tell them to hang in there and make plays and find a way to win."
In the second half, Huntington went three and out, fumbling but eventually punting to the Knights.
Cabell Midland appeared ready to cash in on its first drive of the second half, moving from its own 35 to the Huntington 11-yard line.
Petitt fumbled the ball at on an attempted handoff in the red zone, and Huntington's tackle Nigale Cabell came up with the ball to turn away the Knights again.
Shaver turned the ball over on an interception by Josh Cox and the Knights were back in business.
But two holding penalties forced another Midland punt, and just as quickly, the Highlander's Paden Christian fumbled the ball to CMHS's Kameron Stapleton, and the Knights would cash in.
First, a chop block moved the ball from the 19 to the 35, but it allowed Gaydosz to have a lone 35-yard touchdown and a lead for Cabell Midland late in the third, 14-7.
"Emphasis was on defense, and as an offensive coach, we didn't play the way we can, but we found a way to win," said Salmons.
"We had a lot of costly penalties … it seemed like 20, but we found a way to win."
Unofficially, Huntington had seven penalties for minus-85 yards.
Seals put the blame on himself on the Gaydosz touchdown.
"I made a terrible call on the Gaydosz run up the middle in the third quarter.
"We really didn't get on track, but it's two great teams beating the heck out of each other."
Gaydosz led all runners with 116 yards on 19 carries, and added three catches for 38 more yards, while Farley added 18 carries for 86 yards.
Huntington got a good kickoff return from Izzy Jones after Midland's score, and started the drive at its own 27.
On third and 11, back at the 26 after a four yard run and five yard penalty, Shaver made up for the misses and picks with a 74 yard bomb to senior Lamar Thompson, who scored his first touchdown of the year to make the score 14-13.
Shaver was just 4-of-14, with two interceptions, but threw for 98 yards and rushed for 31 more on ten carries, and throwing for his third touchdown of the year and running for his fourth.
Stephans PAT went through the uprights, but the play was blown dead for Midland being offsides, and on the re-kick from the one and one-half yard line, Cabell Midland's Justin Leggett blocked the extra-point to maintain a one-point lead.
However, Midland could not maintain momentum from the blocked PAT, and when three and out to give the ball back to Huntington, missing on a fourth-and-one at their own 37 yard line instead of punting.
"I mean, it is great, it was tough, and Huntington gave us everything I thought they would," said Salmons. "Both defenses were very tough tonight, both defenses played well - and I went for a fourth and one at the 30.
"That's good … that's what great teams do, and Huntington played us well."
The Highlanders turned to junior running back Paden Christian, who gained 19 yards on six straight gains to move the ball to the 16-yard line.
Christian led the Highlanders with 15 rushes for 74 yards, while Hendricks added 48 yards on just eight carries.
Out came Stephens for the go-ahead field goal, but the Knights were clearly over the line and in the backfield before the snap - however, no flag was thrown by either official on the line of scrimmage.
Issac Gibson picked up the block of teammate Tyler Hayes and retuned it to the 47, but a late block in the back - make-up call, anyone? - moved the Knights back to the 25 yard line.
"The field goal was the difference. It was one point last year and one point this year, and it was a great atmosphere for high school football, just to be a part of that felt great for both communities," said Salmons.
"It was emotional, win or lose, for coaches and players."
Cabell Midland would try to burn clock, gaining one first down, but Huntington would get one last shot, after a punt to its 27-yard line.
A pass interference on first down moved HHS to the 42, then Shaver scrambled for eight more to midfield.
He hit Clark Wilson for six yards and a first down, but nearly suffered his third pick when Knights linebacker Matt McClung dropped a pass for Huntington's Donte Hendricks.
After a run for no gain, Shaver found Hendricks for 11 yards to the 33, but a procedure penalty moved the Highlanders to the 38.
Thompson was stuffed for no gain on first down; Shaver's pass to Hendricks was dropped on second down, and he picked up just three on a third down draw.
On fourth down, Shaver was sacked by Tyler Hayes, making another big play to wrap up the win for the Knights, who move to 5-0 and should still be No. 1 with the Huntington loss, and No. 3 Martinsburg losing to Westminster, one of the best teams in Maryland.
Huntington is 4-1, but they have been here before, said Seals.
"We had the same situation last year, when we lost to Midland 31-30 (in overtime in 2011) and, you know what, we came back to go 5-2 in the the rest of our games and win our first round playoff game, so we will come back in and get working on the next game.
"I have never been a part of anything like No. 1 vs. No. 1 and its great for our county, and two great teams who played their guts out in a 14-13 game tonight in front of a great crowd.
"I'm proud of our kids, they are hurting pretty bad, and we need to hug them up.
Seals has an open week and just in time, according to Huntington's head coach.
"We will get back to work Monday, and fortunately we have a week off. We played without three starters tonight and lost a fourth during the game, so this open week comes at a real good time for us.
Salmons was proud of the game and the crowd, and would like to see this game moved to Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Stadium in the future, so perhaps more than the 8,000 who crowded the hill in Huntington could enjoy this great rivalry.
"It's big for our kids to be moving to 5-0, they are hungry, they need to enjoy this win, and Monday, we will start to get ready for Beckley next week, but they need to enjoy this win.
"We played like 30 kids, we thought (Huntington's players) were getting tired, but they hung in there and played great to the end."
Cabell Midland will host Woodrow Wilson from Beckley next Friday at "The Castle," a game that can be heard in Huntington on The Planet, 92.7 FM and 98.5 FM, as well as streamed on www.planet927.com on the internet.
Cabell Midland 0 7 7 0 = 14
Huntington 0 7 0 6 = 13
Cabell Midland Huntington
Rush 49-217 38-156
Pass 7-4-0, 32 14-4-2, 98
Tot Offense 56-249 52-254
Punt 5/142 (28.0) 3/107 (35.7)
1st Downs 15 13
Penalties 7/-85 6/-30
Fumb/Lost 5/3 3/2
RUSHING: CM David Gaydosz 19-116, TD (35); Lowell Farley 18-86, TD (1); Kasey Thomas 7-18; Stephens Matthews 2-6; Coy Petitt 4/-7; Team 2/-2. HH Paden Christian 15-74; Donte Hendricks 8-48; Shaver 10-31, TD (17); Brandon Morrison 2-4; Lamar Thompson 3/-11.
PASSING: CM Coy Petitt 7-4-0, 32 yards. HH Mark Shaver 14-4-2, 98, TD (74).
RECEIVING: CM David Gaydosz 3/38; Lowell Farley 1/7. HH Jared Martin 1/7; Lamar Thompson 1/74; Clark 1/6.
NOTES: The Highlanders of Huntington High is a school made from the Huntington High Pony Express and the Huntington East Highlanders being merged in 1996, as the Barboursville Pirates and the Milton Greyhounds became Cabell Midland just a couple of years earlier.
Huntington's Pony Express was been No. 1, by popular vote or newspaper polls around state at the end of the following seasons:
1917 (5-0), 1923, 1928 (10-0-2, along with Benwood Union [8-0] and Elkins [9-0]), 1930 (10-0) and in 1934 (10-0, along with Big Creek [9-0]).
Once the era of the playoffs came along, Barbourville was 10-0 and No. 1 in 1953, and won the then Class A (and also a Class B) title 27-0 over Benwood (10-1), was No. 2 in 1954 (10-0) but lost the title to Follansbee (7-0).
The Pirates were ranked No. 1 again at the end of the 1984 season, when they beat No. 8 Fairmont Sr. (28-7), beat No. 4 Stonewall Jackson but lost the title to No. 3 Bluefield (13-7) to finish 12-1.
Huntington was No. 1 in 1964 (9-1) and 1966 (10-0), but lost the state titles both years.
Huntington East was No. 2 in 1980, but fell in the semi-finals to Brooke (42-3) and finished 11-1.
Barboursville was again No. 2 in 1992, but lost in the second round to DuPont (28-8) after beating Greenbrier East.