CHARLESTON — Capital was hoping to build off the first win of the season and for first year coach Mark Mason last week, but faced a tough task in No. 1 and undefeated Huntington.
The Cougars started strong and led by four at halftime but it was all Highlanders in the second half as Huntington earned a 30-7 victory over Capital at University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field.
Capital (1-4) scored a touchdown in the first quarter to lead 7-0 but Huntington would go on to score 30 unanswered points to improve to 5-0 on the season. The Highlanders outscored the Cougars 27-0 in the second half.
“Hats off to Capital, in the first half, they outplayed us,” Huntington coach Billy Seals said. Capital came out and played really well tonight.”
“The message at halftime was that we stunk it up in the first half but were only down 7-3. We really harped on winning the last 24 minutes and if we did that, we would obviously win the football game.
Trailing by four to begin the second half, it didn’t take long for the Highlanders to take their first lead of the game as Huntington struck quickly in the third quarter.
The Highlanders scored a touchdown on their first offensive play of the third quarter when Amari Felder scampered 56 yards for a TD and went untouched to give Huntington a 10-7 lead 17 seconds in.
After a defensive stop, the Highlanders took to the ground again, running the ball five times out of six plays. Huntington marched 59 yards and Curtis Jones scored on a five yard touchdown run to give the Highlanders a 16-7 lead with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
Huntington would go on to score two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away. D’Edrick Graves scored on a four yard touchdown run and Highlanders quarterback Gavin Lochow connected with Noah Waynick for a 24 yard touchdown pass.
Seals indicated the focus of the Highlanders in the second half was to come out and run the football more, and Huntington certainly did.
Lochow threw the ball 15 times in the first half for the Highlanders, only completing seven of them for 79 yards, and often overthrew open receivers. Meanwhile, Huntington only ran the ball nine times.
In the second half, though, the Highlanders ran the ball 23 times, and very effectively. Lochow attempted eight passes in the second half, but only twice in the third quarter when Huntington took to the ground, and took the game over.
“Gavin was off tonight in the first half,” Seals said. “He was pressing some things and not throwing great balls to open guys. You will have nights like that. It’s not going to be perfect every night. But we can rely on the run game, and our running backs ran the ball really well.”
For Huntington, Jones ran the ball 14 times for 90 yards, including 10 times in the second half for 67 yards. Graves rushed seven times for 72 yards, all in the second half, and Felder carried the ball two times for 64 yards. The Highlanders outgained the Cougars 249-57 on the ground.
Capital struck first on a long 16-play, 84-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead with 2:42 left in the first quarter. Shawn James capped off the drive with a four yard touchdown run for the Cougars.
On the drive, Capital quarterback Jacqai Long converted a pair of huge fourth down conversions. The sophomore connected with Brayden Slack with a 14 yard pass on fourth and six, and the two also hooked up for a 19 yard completion on fourth and 14.
The Cougars dominated the first quarter, out-gaining the Highlanders 84-8 in total yards. Capital had four first downs and held Huntington without a single first down.
Huntington was able to string together a drive and get on the scoreboard early in the second quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Jonathan Aya-Ay to cut the Cougar lead to 7-3 with 7:41 left before halftime.
Despite the tough second half, Mason was proud of his Cougars effort, especially in the first half with leading the No. 1 ranked Highlanders at halftime.
“We did some really good things and put forth a strong effort, especially in the first half,” Mason said. “ “We have to learn to put two halves together. This is huge for our younger players. I didn’t like the outcome but we gave it our best shot.”
For Capital, James finished the night with 67 yards rushing on 14 carries, and caught five passes for 28 yards. Long was 18 of 29 passing for 155 yards, and Slack caught four passes for 61 yards.