HUNTINGTON - Huntington High got to the home opener Friday night on "The Hill" with a 2-0 mark, and its first team defense had not allowed a point in those wins at Lincoln County and at Spring Valley.
But when the Winfield Generals turned a early Huntington punt "muff" into a 32-yard field goal and grabbed a quick 3-0 lead in the opener at Bob Sang Stadium in Huntington, Huntington High head coach Billy Seals sensed his team might not be ready to play.
Back roared the Highlanders with three first half touchdowns to take a halftime lead and the win, 21-3, improving to 3-0 on the season, but Seals was anything but pleased with the result, despite his team running up 316 yards of total offense, and rushing for over 250 yards with its top two backs out of the game.
"We weren't very good tonight and I will take the blame for that," said Seals after the game.
"I promise you, I will get it fixed on Monday. That is not the performance our program is about."
Huntington senior quarterback Mark Shaver hit only 3-of-10 passes for 61 yards (all in the first half) and led all rushers with 91 yards on just 11 carries, while junior Paden Christian had 14 carries for 67 yards for Huntington, but Seals was still unhappy, although he did have praise for his opponent's effort.
"Give Winfield some credit, they played hard and they played well, but we didn't play very well at all," said Seals of his team and the 1-2 Generals.
Huntington did lose junior running back Nick Tubbs on the second play of the game, and two game starter Charles Crawford did not even dress, spending the game on the sidelines in street clothes.
But Seals wasn't buying any excuses for the poor effort.
"We got guys that can get the job done back there, guys who don't have the experience of Nick or Charles," said Seals, "so I am not happy. I thought we played hard, but we had an atrocious week of practice and we didn't execute anything we worked on in (those) practices."
Seals saw his team lost two-of-three fumbles, did not have a rusher top 100 yards and allowed Winfield to pick up 14 first downs, ten of which came in the second half when the Generals rolled up 85 yards through the air and 69 of their 90 yards rushing against the Huntington first team defense.
"If we go up next week and play like this at Parkersburg, they will take us out behind the woodshed. When you play Parkersburg at Stadium Field, its like playing in a college game.
"They have all the pageantry and tradition up there (when you play against the Big Reds), and if we go up with a big head about (our record being 3-0), we will get our heads handed to us. We will go back to work on Monday."
Parkersburg bounced back from a big loss to Cabell Midland last week, with a win over their rivals from Marietta, Ohio, to improve to 2-1 on the year.
"A little adversity hit us tonight, and we have to get better than that, and it is all on me and I will get it fixed on Monday. To be where we want to be at the end of the year, this is not good enough."
Huntington did come up with two interceptions of Winfield junior quarterback Toby Show, but he threw 39 times in the game, completing 24 of those passes (62 percent) and gained 150 yards through the air.
His tight end, junior Chris Turner, led all receivers with nine catches for 69 yards.
Winfield's top weapon is senior back Seth Lewis, who rushed 20 times for 72 yards and caught eight passes for 29 more for 101 of Winfield's 240 yards of total offense.
But the General's only score was set up by a Huntington mistake, as Highlander return man Clark Wilson muffed a punt, recovered by Winfield's Jacob Lewis (freshman brother of Seth), and the Generals took over at the HHS 34.
Six plays later, WHS senior kicker Aaron Sadler nailed a 32-yard field goal and Winfield had done what no one did in the first two games, score on the Huntington starting defense.
But back came the Highlanders, after nearly muffing the kickoff from Winfield.
Christian and Shaver moved the Highlanders 64 yards in five plays, running and passing, before giving sophomore Donte Hendricks his first carry of the game, an 18-yard touchdown at the 3:48 mark of the first quarter, a lead the Highlanders would never lose, 7-3.
Hendricks rushed for 57 yards on just six carries, as Huntington rushed for 7.1 yards per carry (36 carries for 255 yards).
Winfield picked up a couple of first downs on its next series, but had to punt, and this time the Highlanders wasted little time getting into the end zone.
Sophomore Brandon Morrison, who rushed four times for 40 yards, picked up 18 yards on first down (also his first carry of the game) and five plays later tacked on the final seven yards for another score.
Just 2:03 into the second quarter, Huntington stretched the lead to 14-3 with a six-play, 61-yard drive to open the second quarter.
On Winfield's next series, Wilson made up for the muff that set up Winfield's field goal by picking off Show, on a ball tipped by HHS senior linebacker Marcus Eller.
Wilson return the ball 29 yards, from the 47 to the 18 yard line, and just four plays later Shaver ducked in the end zone on a sneak to put Huntington up 21-3 with 6:16 to go in the second quarter, and it seemed the Highlanders were rolling.
But the two teams traded punts to end the first half with Huntington leading, and the score would not change in the third or fourth quarters despite some great plays on both sides in the second half.
Winfield opened the second half with a 39 yard run by S. Lewis, coming after a 26-yard kickoff return by sophomore Colton Griffith, but bogged down at the 20-yard line of Huntington and turned the ball over on downs.
Huntington would only collect six first downs in the second half, and had a fumble at the two-yard line by Christian (recovered by Seth Lewis of Winfield) after picking up four of the six on the first drive of the half.
Winfield would turn around and drive the ball from its own two to the Huntington nine, but then Show fumbled on second-and-goal, recovered by HHS sophomore linebacker Matt Shaver (another younger brother), although Huntington would be three and out after stopping a score.
Winfield's last best chance came on the opening drive of the fourth quarter, when the Generals drove from its own 33-yard line to the Huntington 28, but an interception there on a halfback pass by WHS running back Griffith by HHS corner Morrison stopped the Generals there.
The teams would trade punts and Huntington ran out the clock for the win.
Winfield head home for the first time this season and host Riverside, who were routed Friday night by Cabell Midland.
Huntington will have to travel to Parkersburg next week, and try not to look ahead to the game on Sept. 21 when they host 3-0 Cabell Midland in the "Battle for the Shield" between the Knights and the Highlanders.
W - 1st quarter (5:37), Aaron Sadler 32-yard field goal 0-3
H - 1st quarter (3:48), Donte Hendricks 18 run (Z. Stephens kick) 7-3
H - 2nd quarter (9:57), Brandon Morrison 7 run (Z. Stephens kick) 14-3
H - 2nd quarter (6:16), Mark Shaver 2 run (Z. Stephens kick) 21-3
Total Offense Win 64/240 Hunt 46/316
Rush Win 25/90 Hunt 36/255
Pass Win 150 Hunt 61
Pass att/comp Win 39-24-2 Hunt 10-3-0
First Downs Win 14 Hunt 16
Penalties Win 4/-25 Hunt 4/-30
Punts Win 4/39.2 Hunt 5/40.2
Rushing: Winfield - Seth Lewis 20/72, Toby Show 4/13, Jacob Lewis 1/5. Zach Richardson 1/0; Huntington - Mark Shaver 11/91, Paden Christian 14/67, Donte Hendricks 6/57, Brandon Morrison 4/40, Nick Tubbs 1/0.
Passing: Winfield - Toby Show 39-24-2, 150 yards, Zach Richardson 1-0-1; Huntington - Mark Shaver 10-3-0, 61 yards.
Receiving: Winfield - Chris Tuner 9/69, Seth Lewis 8/29, Colton Griffith 3/14, John Hathaway 1/10, Logan Kennedy 1/7; Huntington - Jarod Martin 2/52, Jacob Fraley 1/9.