Big Reds back on the road against Highlanders
Take on second AAA?Top 10 opponent in as many weeks
PARKERSBURG — No. 2 Huntington (3-0) will be out to win its seventh straight game against visiting No. 13 Parkersburg (1-1) here Friday night when the Big Reds take on the Highlanders in a Mountain State Athletic Conference showdown.
A year ago, head coach Billy Seals’ Highlanders left Stadium Field with a hard-fought 28-6 victory, but didn’t have signal-caller Luke Zban. Instead, HHS relied on the legs of Jadon Hayes and a strong defense to churn out a victory.
Come Friday, the Big Reds of first-year head coach Mike Byus will have the fourth chance this season to try and contain Hayes, which no one on the Highlander schedule has managed to do. After three weeks, Hayes has rushed for 10 touchdowns and 543 yards. He found paydirt four times last week and went for 248 stripes in a 35-14 rout of George Washington.
Parkersburg, which rallied from a first-half 27-0 deficit last Friday to make it a one score affair (27-21) before falling 40-21 to Capital, had the tough task of trying to slow down Cougar quarterback Kerry Martin, who threw for 274 yards and a trio of touchdowns while rushing for 83 more yards.
“They are a quality bunch,” Byus said of the Highlanders, who will have a big advantage in the trenches as the Big Reds are currently dealing with some injury issues up front. “We watched them play both of their last two games to get a feel for what offense and defense they are in.
“They are kind of balanced. They throw the ball well. They run it at you a little bit. They are pretty solid all the way around.”
Byus knows it will take an entire team effort if the defense is going to be able to stand tall and make stops.
“You got to be in the gaps where you are supposed to be and when you are supposed to be there,” Byus said of trying to neutralize the talents of a Martin or a Hayes. “We’re continuing to work on getting better and understanding our responsibilities.”
Jake Johnson continues to run the show for PHS, which will need to get tailback Tyler Moler going. Brenton Strange (9-111), Seth Dailey (7-65) and Shane Miller (5-90) have been Johnson’s top targets in the early going. Wyatt Strobl currently paces the PHS defense with 19 stops while C.J. Wade has a quartet of tackles for loss.
Not only do the Big Reds have to worry about Hayes and Zban, but HHS also boasts running back Chris Rogers and wideout Mikal Dawson.
“We just made a lot of mistakes,” Byus said of getting behind early last week. “We played well in the third quarter and the last two minutes of the first half.
“I think we came out with a little bit of the jitters. We made a lot of mistakes. We had execution issues and we’ve got to solve those kinds of things. We’ve got to prepare mentally and be able to take that to the game on Friday in order to play well.”
NO. 13 BIG REDS (1-1)
Aug. 25: d. St. Albans, 49-10
Sept. 8: lost to Capital, 40-21
Sept. 15: at Huntington
Sept. 22: Marietta
Sept. 29: at Wheeling Park
Oct. 6: Woodrow Wilson
Oct. 13: at Cabell Midland
Oct. 20: Hurricane
Oct. 27: Riverside
Nov. 3: at Parkersburg South
NO. 2 HIGHLANDERS (3-0)
Aug. 25: d. Belfry (Ky.), 45-34
Sept. 1: d. Spring Valley, 14-0
Sept. 8: d. George Washington, 35-14
Sept. 15: Parkersburg
Sept. 22: Capital
Sept. 29: at Ripley
Oct. 13: at Hurricane
Oct. 20: South Charleston
Oct. 27: at Woodrow Wilson
Nov. 3: Cabell Midland