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Hurricane knows physical game awaits

By | Gazette-Mail High School Huddle
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Derek Taylor and Tom Bragg discuss the WV prep football landscape with guest Kristin Kurelic of Morgantown.
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Tom Hindman
Hurricane defenders chase Princeton's Jordan Jones as he receives a pitch during the Redskins' 41-21 win last week.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A physical matchup awaits as Cabell Midland looks to rebound while Hurricane hopes to add to its playoff resume when the two teams meet in Ona at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

The Knights (3-1) fell last week to Cabell County rival Huntington as the Redskins (3-1) defeated Princeton behind an impressive second-half showing. Both teams' coaches said they expect Friday's Mountain State Athletic Conference tilt to be a tough one.

"It's always been a big game, a physical game and that's what we'll expect this week," Midland Coach Luke Salmons said.

Midland, ninth in the current Secondary School Activities Commission AAA rankings, lost Friday for the first time since reaching the state championship game last season. Turnovers proved costly for the Knights in the loss, Salmons said, but those mistakes have taught Midland to value the "little things" and prepare with even more vigor.

"They're real hungry this week and I like that as a coach," Salmons said. "It's exciting to see them hungry."

The Knights rushed for 341 yards against Huntington and boast a bevy of talented backs in Kasey Thomas (584 rushing yards this season), Teran Barnitz (358), Dontae Hendricks (298) and Alex Childers (293).

Hurricane Coach Jeremy Taylor said there's no disguise to the Midland offensive game plan.

"Well, as usual, they're going to run the ball," Taylor said. "They've got a pretty good staple of backs and an offensive line that's physical and big. They're just a heckuva team, well-coached, disciplined. They're going to do what they do. They're not going to trick you. They're just going to line up and run about four plays from four formations, and they do them well."

Midland's offensive line leads the point of attack for the squad's many talented rushers, Salmons said.

"The offensive line, they've done a really good job this year, in my opinion," he said. "I feel like, at this point, they're better than where they were last year. The only thing that's hurt us is turnovers. We've put the ball on the ground in key situations this year. We've only punted twice all year."

As it's clear Midland will run and employ a physical plan, Hurricane is expected to rely upon the strength of talented senior quarterback Austin Hensley, though his effectiveness will be significantly limited without an adequate running game.

"We're going to run the ball," Taylor said. "We can't just sit back and throw the ball 40, 50 times and expect to win. Midland's not going to allow that to happen. If you look at our stats last week, I think we were pretty balanced."

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