MORGANTOWN — On Friday, Cabell Midland traveled 198 miles up Interstates 64 and 79 to University High School.
And once the Knights got there, they just kept on driving.
By interstate or by field turf, there was nothing — other than the halftime horn — that could stop Midland’s first-team offense as the No. 5 Knights piled up 538 rushing yards in a 46-21 win over the No. 4 Hawks in a Class AAA quarterfinal. University’s season ended at 11-1.
With the victory, Cabell Midland (11-1) set up a rematch with No. 1 Huntington in the semifinals next week. The Highlanders defeated the Knights 21-17 in the teams’ regular-season matchup.
Playing in front of a packed home crowd, University won the coin toss and deferred — it might as well have handed a sword to an executioner. The Knights’ starting offense scored touchdowns on seven of its eight possessions, with the exception being a one-play drive before the first-half buzzer.
Facing a team with which it had little experience, Midland leaned on its own identity of run-heavy, power and misdirection offense, and there was never a need to stray from it as the Knights kept moving the chains and putting up points.
“That’s what we do,” Midland coach Luke Salmons said. “We’ve got a great team, we’ve got four backs with over 1,000 yards, a good line, averaging a lot of points and you don’t want to change. That’s kind of who we are and we take what they give us and kind of figured them out as we got going.”
The Knight attack was spearheaded by senior bruisers Jackson Fetty and Chandler Schmidt, who rumbled for 423 yards and seven touchdowns between them.
Schmidt scored the first two Midland touchdowns to put his team up 14-0 in the second quarter, with Fetty scoring the next three, including an 82-yard jaunt late in the third quarter that served as the dagger, putting the Knights ahead 33-7 at the time.
Schmidt rumbled for two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter on rushes of 4 and 44 yards, with the Hawks finally making headway against Midland’s second-team defense.
In the end, Fetty accumulated 256 yards on 24 carries with Schmidt toting the ball 19 times for 167 more. But no matter who was carrying the football, holes were aplenty as the Knights dominated the line of scrimmage.
“Our offensive line is the best in the state by far,” Fetty said. “Couldn’t do anything without them, and our backs block well. We’re a close-knit group; we play for each other and it shows.”
Meanwhile, the Knights were holding their own defensively as well and bowed up when they needed to keep University off the board. The Hawks reached the Midland 25-, 36- and 9-yard lines on three of their first four possessions, but those drives resulted in a punt sandwiched between two turnovers on downs. University didn’t score an offensive touchdown until 6:20 remaining in the game when Colin McBee pushed the ball across from 2 yards out. Until that point, the Hawks’ only points came on a 67-yard kickoff return by Daminn Cunningham with 10.3 seconds left in the first half.
“We just knew we had to go out and play Midland football,” Fetty said. “We watched film all week, prepared really well for them, knew what they were going to do on offense, knew what they were going to do on defense and we just executed the game plan.”
The Knights attempted just one pass in the game. McBee ran for 95 yards on 17 rushes to lead University, with backup quarterback Luke Hudson connecting on 5 of 5 passes for 80 yards including a touchdown toss to Jack Smith late in the fourth to finish the scoring.
University entered the game as the higher seed and with the undefeated record, but Fetty said the Knights viewed the contest as a chance to make a statement about the strength of the Huntington area and the toughness of the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
“Absolutely, yeah,” he said. “We think we have the toughest schedule, the toughest conference. We take pride in that and we just go around the state and try to show everybody that.”