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'New kid' Huntington attempts to derail history

By | Gazette-Mail High School Huddle
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T.J. Lawhon
Huntington's Matthew Shaver celebrates the Highlanders' Oct. 4 win against Capital.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To stop Martinsburg from making history, Huntington will have to make some of its own in Saturday's Class AAA state championship game at the Super Six in Wheeling.

The Bulldogs (12-1) have won three consecutive state championships, a title streak that matches Charleston High School's run as Class AAA champion from 1968-70 as the longest in state history.

Another crown and Martinsburg will be in a class by itself.

Top-seeded Huntington, meanwhile, is playing in its first Super Six. In fact, the Highlanders (13-0) came into existence two years after the three-game event changed its address from Charleston to Wheeling Island Stadium in 1994.

"We're kind of the new kid on the block with this being our first state championship appearance," Huntington Coach Billy Seals said Wednesday. "Martinsburg makes the same reservations year-in and year-out, so hopefully we don't look like a deer in headlights when we get up there."

Seals said his senior-dominated team has been "pretty even-keeled" all season, however, and does not expect that playing on the state's biggest stage will affect the outcome.

Huntington's opponent, on the other hand, will have plenty to say.

"I see a team that has no weaknesses, to be honest with you," Seals said of the Bulldogs after reviewing game film.

"You look at their offense and everything is run through Malique Watkins, and the Lindsay kid has played very, very well especially in the last few weeks. Their (offensive) line isn't as big as it's been, but they're scrappy," he said.

Watkins has 1,790 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 232 carries in 11 games this season. He sat out two games while his eligibility case was settled by the Secondary School Activities Commission. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior has completed 62 of 105 passes (59 percent) for 934 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Deamonte Lindsay, a 6-2, 185-pound junior, has rushed 132 times for 1,117 yards and 14 TDs.

Huntington enters the game with the state's most accomplished defense this season. The Highlanders gave up just 93 points in the regular season, and in the postseason have held three opponents to an average of 13.7 points per game. But Seals' concern is over what will happen when the Bulldogs' defense is on the field.

"They'll probably play a 50 or a 6-2 defense at us and say, 'Hey, run right at us,'" Seals said. "I think we've got to be able to throw the football."

Seals does not expect to turn Highlanders junior quarterback Clark Wilson into Russell Wilson, but he said Huntington will likely be forced to throw - with success - more than average.

Wilson (6-0, 180) has completed just 27-of-97 passes (27.8 percent) for 587 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

"I'm not talking about standing up and throwing the ball 20 times a game," Seals said. "I'm talking about being able to get in a 2nd-and-4 or whatever it might be. I'd like to be able to take a while with the ball and score.

"First downs equal touchdowns, the way I look at it."

Huntington has its own pair of 1,000-yard rushers in seniors Paden Christian (5-11, 170) and Charles Crawford (5-11, 180). Christian has carried 208 times for 1,152 times and 12 touchdowns while Crawford has 131 carries for 1,113 yards and 16 scores.

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