HUNTINGTON — Homecoming games always are memorable, but Huntington High’s 2018 celebration will be talked about for decades.
The Highlanders (6-0), No. 2 in Class AAA in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission ratings, defeated No. 12 Hurricane (3-4) 34-21 Friday night at Bob Sang Stadium in a wild game that was entertaining in multiple facets.
The most bizarre event was the ejection of Redskins coach Jeremy Taylor, the result of three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on him and/or his team, after Huntington scored on a wild fake field goal. TaJhan Blackwell threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Prestera on the fake, giving the Highlanders a 28-14 lead with 6:40 left in the game.
Taylor was irate at the officials and put on a display that would rival the best of former Major League Baseball managers Lou Piniella and Earl Weaver. The tirade delayed Isiah Carpenter’s kicking the extra point for about 10 minutes.
A byproduct of the trio of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties was that the Highlanders kicked off from the Hurricane 15-hard line. Carpenter attempted an onside kick, but the Redskins recovered at the 7.
The contest also featured a bevy of other interesting plays, including:
n Homecoming king Ty Wilcoxon, Huntington’s leading rusher entering the game, was honored at halftime and made it across the field on crutches, which were necessary because of a broken ankle suffered last week.
n Blackwell tied Jadon Hayes’ school record, set last year against Hurricane, with a 99-yard touchdown run to give the Highlanders a 21-14 lead with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
n Nate Barham set Hurricane and stadium records with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that tied the game 7-7 at 9:30 of the second quarter. Barham later returned a kickoff 72 yards for a touchdown to pull the Redskins within 34-21.
n Diallo Mitchell made a return of his own, picking off a Nathan Roy pass and running it back 17 yards for a touchdown to boost Huntington’s lead to 34-14 with 5:18 to play.
n Four of the game’s plays — two kickoff returns, an interception return and a 99-yard run — resulted in touchdowns that took a total of 47 seconds.
Huntington dominated statistically, outgaining Hurricane 408-115, but didn’t put the game out of reach until the fourth quarter.
The Redskins went to the Wildcat formation in the third quarter, with tailback Christian Hill taking direct snaps. Hill led a 12-play, 62-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard run to tie the game 14-14 with 3:42 left in the third quarter.
Hill, a 1,700-yard rusher a year ago, was held to 29 yards on 19 carries and still led the Redskins in rushing.
Blackwell ran for 117 yards on 10 attempts and completed 8 of 17 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns, with Johronimo Mitchell, Bryce Damous and Prestera hauling in TD passes of 27, 18 and 19 yards, respectively.