Hurricane's Koi Turner tries to get away from Cabell Midland defenders Joshua Cox (13) and Alexander Childers.
ONA - Yes, there was cause for celebration at Cabell Midland, which put the icing on a 10-0 regular season with a 31-13 win over Hurricane at "The Castle."
But the expectations have become different in eastern Cabell County, so ratcheted up that Friday night's effort comes with a tinge of disappointment.
"It's funny, win 31-13 and you're talking about not playing your best, but that changes, you know," said Midland coach Luke Salmons. "Last year we beat Hurricane by 10 and we're ready to tear down the goalposts. But that's good. That's where we want our program."
When the top-ranked Knights gather for their 9 a.m. film session today, they'll no doubt be cringing over their 12 penalties for 125 yards, a player ejection, two lost fumbles and difficulties in pass coverage, among other things.
But there was some representative, top-flight Midland football, as the Knights took the upper hand against the ninth-ranked Redskins (6-4), who threw some of their best shots.
The Knights rushed for 326 yards on 52 carries, with David Gaydosz getting 119 on 15 attempts, while Lowell Farley added 91 on 14 carries. When the Knights finally introduced the forward pass - late in the third quarter - it looked ugly until Kasey Thomas hit Tanner Chapman for 33 yards to the Hurricane 7.
That set up Gaydosz's second touchdown, a 6-yard run that set the final score with 3:27, putting the Redskins away.
Farley also scored twice. Unofficially, Gaydosz has 1,459 yards rushing for the season and Farley 1,259.
But Gaydosz echoed Salmons' line of thought, without prompting.
"The final result was a 'W' and [the coaches] are happy with that, but the play was just sloppy," Gaydosz said. "I'm sure we're going to hear it tomorrow in 9 a.m. film."
Hurricane's Austin Hensley hit the Knights for 226 yards passing, completing 17 of his 22 attempts. He was pressured more as the game went on and threw two interceptions, but still gave Midland trouble.
He started from the opening kickoff, driving the Redskins 77 yards in 14 plays and gaining the last 7 on the ground. Midland chipped in with two straight penalties - one for running into kicker Michael Molina on a successful 34-yarder, then an offsides on fourth-and-2.
Gaydosz answered with a 33-yard run, capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive, and then the Knights stopped Hurricane on their 25-yard line. Chris Molina gave the Knights a 10-7 lead with a 39-yard field goal, forced a three-and-out and drove 70 plays in 10 yards to make it 17-7.
The Redskins squandered a shot to cut the lead to 17-10 when an illegal block nullified a Michael Molina 30-yard field goal. Backed up 10 yards, the next attempt was blocked by Midland's Nick Boone, who also snuffed an extra point in the second half.
Midland got the ball in the second half, but fans may have been surprised to find out the Redskins were kicking off from their 25. That's because Hurricane coach Jeremy Taylor was flagged for comments left on the way to the locker room.
That was one of Hurricane's 10 penalties for 93 yards.
"We get emotional at times, and you can't let the emotional aspect of the game take over when you're coaching," Taylor said. "You just can't do it."
That stung, and it stung double when Gaydosz returned a short kickoff 45 yards to the Hurricane 23. After Thomas rushed for 8 yards, Farley covered the final 15 to give the Knights a 24-7 lead.
Midland hurt itself with a few penalties, including an unsportsmanlike-conduct foul that got offensive lineman Kurt Jones ejected (and automatically suspended next week). The Knights lost their second fumble when Coy Pettit entered at quarterback and fumbled a snap on his second play. Pettit had a slightly injured thumb, and Salmons moved Thomas from wingback to quarterback for much of the game.
While Midland was muddling, Hurricane struck for a touchdown with 10 minutes left, scoring on Zach Pate's 27-yard run. Hensley hit Koi Turner for 25 yards on the last play of the third quarter to knock the Knights on their heels.
That made it 24-13, but the Redskins couldn't score again. A penalty helped stall a drive at the Midland 30, and then the Knights launched their final scoring drive. Hensley's last pass, from the Midland 16, was intercepted in the end zone with 1:32 left.
Taylor was not dismayed over his team's effort, by any means.
"We're so young, we really are," Taylor said. "Seven seniors, all these sophomores and juniors playing, we're just so close. I don't know who we're going to draw next week, but I'm not afraid of going against anybody."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.