For a team that makes headlines with its defense, Huntington sure turned on the offense Friday night, breaking open a tight game at South Charleston.
Quarterback Gavin Lochow ran for five touchdowns, all in the second half, as the unbeaten Highlanders came from behind and plowed past South Charleston 52-21 in a matchup of top-10 Class AAA teams.
Huntington (9-0) entered the game second in the Class AAA playoff ratings, while the Black Eagles (5-3) were tied for eighth.
The Highlanders trailed 14-10 at halftime and looked like they were in a pickle just as the third quarter was ending, but scored the game’s final four touchdowns to break it open with a bevy of big plays on both offense and defense.
“Coach C.J. Crawford has done a hell of a job on the offensive side of the ball,” said Huntington coach Billy Seals. “We’ve got a few new wrinkles.
“When you put 52 points up on a South Charleston team after only scoring 10 in the first half … we didn’t yell or go crazy at halftime. We just said, ‘We played our worst half of the year and we’re down four. Execute the plan in the second half,’ and we did. And that’s a credit to our kids. They believe in what we’re doing and they play hard for each other.”
The Highlanders didn’t have enormous offensive numbers — Lochow had 10 carries for 77 yards and threw for 139 — but they converted every opportunity they had in the second half, scoring TDs on all six possessions.
Perhaps the biggest play came in the final minute of the third quarter with Huntington holding a tenuous 24-21 lead. The Highlanders were backed up to their own 35 with a third and 16, and Lochow found Noah Waynick along the left sideline. Waynick broke a tackle and gained 64 yards to the SC 1. Lochow scored on the next play to make it 31-21.
South Charleston’s next three possessions ended prematurely. Trey Dunn was intercepted by Amari Felder at the SC 42 and Scout Arthur at the SC 31, and the other drive ended when the Black Eagles’ punter fielded an off-target snap and fell at his own 1.
That led to three short-field touchdowns by the Highlanders, and the suspense was over.
“I told our players before the game we’ve got to play hard for four quarters,” said SC coach Donnie Mays. “In the first half, we came out and did what we had to do … but in the second half, we couldn’t sustain our blocks, and credit Huntington because they came out with an edge. They kind of took our momentum away from us.
“It puts you in a bad spot when you play from behind against a team like that because they’re very good.”
Huntington also got an 89-yard scoring burst from freshman Zah Zah Jackson and a 5-yard TD run by Felder. Jackson was the team’s top rusher with 92 yards on two carries. Waynick caught five passes for 122 yards.
The Black Eagles were matching scores with the Highlanders for three quarters, getting a pair of short scoring runs from Dunn and Wayne Harris’ 29-yard touchdown reception from Dunn, who was 15 of 22 for 209 yards with three interceptions.
Then came the second-half landslide as Huntington racked up 288 of its 378 total yards.
“That shows me we have a mature football team,” Seals said. “It could have snowballed in the second half because we didn’t play well in the first half. But they played lights out in the second half.”
The centerpiece of the first half was South Charleston’s second scoring drive, which covered 69 yards in 15 plays and took more than eight minutes off the clock and gave the Black Eagles a 14-10 advantage. SC actually had to gain 84 yards on the possession, owing to a 15-yard penalty.
SC converted five first downs on that drive, including a third and 10 on a 13-yard pass from Dunn to Harris. Dunn was 4 for 4 on that possession for 44 yards.
Prior to that score, Jonny Aya-Ay booted a 42-yard field goal for the Highlanders.
Huntington came into the game allowing just 7.3 points and 180 total yards per game, but SC had surmounted both of those by halftime.