Seldom has momentum shifted as much as it did in the fourth quarter at Steve Edwards Sr. Field Friday night.
Early in the final period, it seemed like Huntington was destined to initiate a running clock in a blowout win against George Washington. But a few moments later, the Patriots went on a wild rally and nearly made it a one-possession game before falling 30-14.
Huntington (4-0) entered the game No. 2 in the SSAC Class AAA playoff ratings, two spots ahead of GW (3-1).
Highlanders quarterback Gavin Lochow ran for two touchdowns and threw for a pair of scores, but coach Billy Seals was largely dissatisfied at the ending, in which GW recovered back-to-back onside kicks in the final 5:20 after trailing 30-0 entering the fourth quarter.
“We’re not there yet,’’ Seals said. “We’re not killers yet. We let people hang around. We told them, ‘You want to talk about great programs – Martinsburg. They get up 30-0 on somebody, it’s 60-0 because they’re killers. They finish things off.’ We’re not there yet.’’
Leading 30-0, Huntington reached the GW 28 with a first down and a running clock seemed imminent if the Highlanders got a 35-point lead. However, Hunter Giacomo intercepted a Lochow pass and GW’s late rally was on.
Noah Vellaithambi came off the bench and found Tyshawn Dues with an 11-yard TD pass, GW covered the ensuing onside kick and Vellaithambi hit Taran Fitzpatrick with a 42-yard score, making it 30-14 with 3:58 to go.
Amazingly, the Patriots then fell on another onside kick at the Huntington 29. They eventually got a first down at the 11 before losing 11 yards on a sack and the drive fizzled when they could have gotten within one possession.
“Our kids didn’t quit playing,’’ said GW coach Steve Edwards Sr. “They showed a little bit of character, and we needed that. I think we played hard. They’re a little bit better than we were tonight. They executed better, they played better. They did a lot of things better.’’
Lochow completed 13 of 20 passes for 186 yards and ran 15 times for 93 yards. Curtis Jones added 84 yards on 14 carries as Huntington dominated the first three quarters, and outgained GW on the ground 219-0.
Still, Seals wasn’t happy with the way his team performed.
“To be honest, no,’’ Seals said, “because we expect to play great for four quarters, and we didn’t play that way tonight. We played 31/2 quarters and the last half of the fourth quarter, we looked like a team that never played before. We get a stupid personal foul here on the 30 from a senior, that backs the ball up and we throw a pick.
“It’s very disheartening the last six minutes, but we’ve got to continue to grow. It’s a growing process, and we’ve got to learn how to finish people off.’’
Vellaithambi completed his first five passes and finished 7 of 10 for 94 yards with two TDs. Season-long starter Abe Fenwick, with no running game at his disposal, was 9 of 15 for 119 yards with two interceptions for the Patriots.
Fitzpatrick caught four passes for 66 yards and Hasten Pinkerton three for 72 yards for GW. Noah Waynick had six receptions for 88 yards for Huntington.
The Highlanders had a pair of clock-draining 80-yard drives to go ahead 14-0 at halftime. The first possession took 14 plays, ending with an 8-yard scoring run by Lochow and the second took 10 snaps, with Lochow finding Waynick with a 9-yard TD toss just 35 seconds before halftime.
Huntington racked up six first downs on the initial long drive, and converted a pair of fourth and short calls. The Highlanders picked up four first downs on the second scoring possession and had 13 first downs by halftime, allowing them to run a total of 34 plays.
Those two drives severely limited GW’s offense, which ran just 16 plays across three full possessions. The closest the Patriots got was the Highlanders 22 to start the second quarter, but a fourth and 5 pass from Fenwick to Fitzpatrick fell incomplete.
GW gained only 57 yards in the first half against the Highlanders’ denying defense, with 4 yards on eight running plays. Huntington came into the game having allowed just three touchdowns in its first three games.
The second half didn’t start any better for the Patriots. On the second offensive snap for GW, Jordan Price sacked Fenwick in the end zone for a safety to make it 16-0.
The Highlanders visit Capital next Friday, while GW has its bye week before a trip to South Charleston on Oct. 1.