By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Huntington coach Billy Seals doesn’t mind telling you, he was more than just concerned about the challenges brought forth by Woodrow Wilson.
“Woodrow is the most dangerous team we have seen,” Seals said. “Coming into this week, looking at them as a (coaching) staff, we were very impressed by what they were able to do, on both sides of the ball. ... We were very, very worried about this football game.”
If it was a test for the Class AAA No. 4 Highlanders, they passed.
Huntington’s defense pressured Woodrow quarterback Andrew Johnson effectively, and Donte Hendricks’ 59-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter made the hill a little too steep for the No. 11 Flying Eagles, who fell 30-22 Friday at Van Meter Stadium.
Four different players ran for touchdowns for Huntington, and Zac Stevens kicked a 37-yard field goal as the Highlanders improved to 5-1. Paden Christian rushed for a game-high 116 yards, including a 47-yard TD in the first quarter.
An 8-yard run by Charles Crawford put Huntington ahead 23-8 halfway through the third, but Woodrow (4-3) would not go away.
A 1-yard touchdown by Marcus Mickey and two-point reception by Timothy Culicerto made it 23-16 with 9:06 to play.
The Eagles looked to have taken the momentum after that, forcing Huntington into a third down situation at its 41. But Hendricks took the ball on a sweep, got to the right sideline and went 59 yards to the end zone to put the Highlanders’ lead back at two touchdowns.
“We thought we had them on the ropes,” Woodrow coach John H. Lilly said.
“Obviously, that was a big play for us,” Seals said. “We didn’t play very good tonight, but a lot of that had to do with Beckley. They have a good football team. I’m just glad to get out of here with a win.”
Even then, Woodrow stayed in the game. Johnson hit Culicerto for a 51-yard touchdown — Culicerto was tripped up but stretched to get the ball across the goal line — and it was an eight-point game with 4:17 to play.
But the Highlanders were able to control the clock, using a pair of first downs along the way, and held on for the win.
“I’m really proud of this football team,” Lilly said after the loss. “We had three starters out (backs Cole Williams and Chase Hancock and tight end Jacob Van Meter), and that really affected us last week (a 70-34 loss at No. 1 Cabell Midland), so we really had a concern this week. Some younger kids stepped up and played their butts off, and that’s what we have been waiting for them to do.”
Johnson completed 8 of 22 passes for 119 yards. He became the school’s career leader in touchdown passes with his 8-yard score to Donte Nabors in the second quarter.
Johnson, who also was held to 60 yards on 16 carries, now has 27 touchdown passes for his career.
Huntington will go to Logan next Friday. Woodrow will be at home again to take on Parkersburg.
“We’re disappointed because, honest to God, we really thought we would win this game,” Lilly said. “But I give them credit. They made a big play there (late), and from that point on we were playing catch-up.”
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Huntington 30, Woodrow Wilson 22
H (5-1) 7 10 6 7 — 30
WW (4-3) 0 8 0 14 — 22
H: Paden Christian 47 run (Zac Stevens kick), 4:15.
WW: Donte Nabors 8 pass from Andrew Johnson (Brent Osborne pass from Johnson), 8:00.
H: Stevens 37 FG, 4:36.
H: Mark Shaver 4 run (Stevens kick), :26.9.
H: Charles Crawford 8 run (kick failed), 7:20.
WW: Marcus Mickey 1 run (Timothy Culicerto pass from Johnson), 9:06.
H: Donte Hendricks 59 run (Stevens kick), 7:20.
WW: Culicerto 51 pass from Johnson (run failed), 4:17.
RUSHING — H: Christian 15-116, Hendricks 10-79, Shaver 10-58, Crawford 4-18, team 2-(-2). WW: Johnson 16-60, Jaquan Ayers 7-40, Ramon Edwards 5-15, Osborne 1-6, Jacob Meadows 2-4, Mickey 1-1, team 2-(-26).
PASSING — H: Shaver 7-15-2-86, Crawford 1-1-0-27. WW: Johnson 8-22-0-119, Osborne 1-1-0-11.
RECEIVING — H: Jarod Martin 2-28, Nathan Haikal 2-22, Shaver 1-27, Clark Wilson 1-13, Crawford 1-13, Izzy Jones 1-8. WW: Meadows 3-11, Edwards 2-37, Culicerto 1-51, Brandon Hansford 1-12, Johnson 1-11, Nabors 1-8.
TURNOVERS — H: Kris Van Camp (FR). WW: Osborne (INT), Culicerto (INT).