By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Huntington and Woodrow Wilson both flexed a little defensive muscle, at least for a while.
But, as advertised, Huntington’s was just too good.
The Highlanders intercepted Woodrow quarterback Brent Osborne four times and held their opponent to less than 200 yards for the third straight game. They also got their first shutout of the year, defeating the Flying Eagles 33-0 at Van Meter Stadium.
After holding Hurricane to 170 yards and Spring Valley to 174, Huntington (3-0) held the Eagles to 139 a week before their showdown with rival Cabell Midland.
“We had to prepare for a very good football team in Woodrow Wilson. Hats off to (coach) John Lilly; they’ve got a fine football team,” Huntington coach Billy Seals said. “We are playing pretty good on defense right now. I think we’ve played three good opponents. It would not surprise me if all three are in the playoffs.”
Woodrow found trouble running the ball against the faster Highlanders, gaining just 48 yards on the ground. The Eagles were eventually forced into passing mode, and Osborne played well in flashes. But three of Huntington’s four picks came in the second half.
The third quarter was pivotal. Woodrow trailed 10-0 at halftime, but was held to eight yards of offense in the quarter.
“Third-down-and-long has been our Achilles’ heel all year long,” said Lilly, whose team was 5-of-15 on third-down conversions. “And we can’t seem to get (the defense) off the field. We keep getting ourselves into bad field position, and that’s just killing us. We’ve got to get better in third-down-and-long situations and fourth-down-and-long situations. If we can correct that down the stretch, maybe we can fight back a little bit.”
Seals said he felt Woodrow (1-2) controlled the line of scrimmage early on. He laid it all out to his team during his halftime speech.
“We challenged our team at halftime,” he said. “They know when I’m not happy, and I didn’t think we played well in the first half. ... We tried to get them three or four scores down is what we tried to do. Then they have to be one-dimensional.”
The Highlanders took advantage of the Eagles’ third-quarter doldrums to take a commanding lead.
After going three-and-out on their first series of the second half, the Highlanders scored on four of their next five possessions. Paden Christian’s 5-yard touchdown put them ahead 17-0 with 4:25 left in the third quarter and capped off a drive that started after Gregory May’s interception.
Zach Stevens’ 40-yard field goal made it 20-0 at the 2:27 mark. It was Stevens’ second field goal on the night — he opened the scoring with a 32-yarder early in the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Clark Wilson hit Robert Romans for a 33-yard touchdown pass on third-and-14 on the first play of the fourth to put Huntington ahead 27-0.
Down four touchdowns, the Eagles were forced to go to their passing game, and that’s where Lilly said the team’s inexperience showed.
“The score did not indicate the (closeness of) the game,” Lilly said. “In some areas, we are very, very young. We made a lot of young mistakes tonight, not running the right patterns and stuff like that. We’ll regroup. We’ll get back.”
Senior Nick Tubbs closed the scoring when he broke loose for a 74-yard touchdown run with 3:08 to go.
Tubbs finished with eight carries for 112 yards, and caught four passes for 57 yards.
“I promise you, he is a top-3 player in the state of West Virginia,” Seals said. “He doesn’t put up numbers like some of these (other) guys, but I promise you when we are playing people, they’re scheming to stop him.”
Charles Crawford scored on an 18-yard run in the second quarter for Huntington. Crawford is the cousin of former Highlanders quarterback and Marshall tight end C.J. Crawford, who is now at UNC-Charlotte.
Christian ran for 85 yards on 18 carries.
Osborne was 16-of-27 for 91 yards for the Eagles, who are off next week before hosting Riverside for homecoming on Friday, Sept. 27.
— E-mail: gfauber
H (3-0) 3 7 10 13 — 33
WW (1-2) 0 0 0 0 — 0
H: Zach Stevens 32 FG, :37.2.
H: Charles Crawford 18 run (Stevens kick), 8:59.
H: Paden Christian 5 run (Stevens kick), 4:25.
H: Stevens 40 FG, 2:27.
H: Robert Romans 33 pass from Clark Wilson (Stevens kick), 11:44.
H: Nick Tubbs 74 run (kick blocked), 3:08.
RUSHING — H: Tubbs 8-112, Christian 18-85, Crawford 8-47, Wilson 4-16, Daniel Clark 1-(-2). WW: Troy Lilly 6-18, Chase Hancock 4-16, Brent Osborne 5-16, Marcus Mickey 1-1, Josh Creed 1-(-3).
PASSING — H: Wilson 5-16-1-90. WW: Osborne 16-27-4-91.
RECEIVING — H: Tubbs 4-57, Romans 1-33. WW: Nabors 5-6, Hancock 4-52, Creed 4-6, Lilly 2-16, Dylan Foster 1-10.
TAKEAWAYS — H: Wilson (INT), Gregory May (INT), David Gatrell (INT), Matthew Shaver (INT). WW: Nabors (INT).