Falcons-Raiders not traditional rivalry — but a big game


Rivalry? Not really.

Big game? You bet.

There are a lot of geographically interesting games going on this week in local high school football, but Northwood-Huntington isn’t one of them. It’s hard to call it a rivalry because they haven’t played each other in a few years.

But when the 1-4A schedule came out and “Huntington at Northwood” was listed as a district opener, that didn’t go unnoticed.

“When I saw that,” Northwood coach Austin Brown said, “I knew we had better start getting prepared.”

“We’ve had this one circled for a while,” said Huntington coach Stephen Dennis.

If Northwood and Huntington aren’t the pre-season district favorites, they are certainly near the top of the list. Northwood was 9-3 last year and made it to the state quarterfinals. Huntington was 9-3 and reached the second round of the playoffs. Both playoff losses were by three points or less.

A year ago, they were in opposite sides of a split District 1-4A, but not any more.

They will battle it out to see who will take the first step toward a district title tonight at 7 at Jerry Burton Stadium.

“We hope we know who we are when district arrives,” Brown said. “Every team we scheduled so far was (scheduled) for a reason. We play teams we think could maybe out-physical us, maybe out-coach us. We need to see how well we handle that and how well we adjust during and after the game.”

Both have played strong non-district schedules. Northwood comes in at 2-1 and Huntington is 1-2.

“I think it’s going to be a good, even matchup,” Brown said. “They have been through the same things we have and they should know who they are now.”

In Northwood’s win last week, Airline threw three touchdown passes, which Brown knows doesn’t bode well against Huntington’s prolific passing attack. “That’s not a good omen for us,” Brown said. “That has only heightened our practices and our focus this week.”

Every coach seeks a balanced offense, but Quintavion White’s 242-yard, four-touchdown performance last week was almost a 180-degree turn from Northwood’s normal passing attack featuring quarterback Mason Welch.

“We have a lot of confidence going into this week with the run game,” Brown said. “Anytime you can run the ball, you sleep a little better at night. But (our) wide receivers want the ball, too. So we will try to get them the ball this week and be a little more balanced.”

Brown wasn’t exactly thrilled with the Falcons’ defensive performance last week. “We didn’t perform very well on defense last week, which isn’t good going into a matchup with this caliber of this kind of quarterback (Huntington’s Kam Evans),” he said. “That makes you a little uneasy, but maybe the defense needed that and hopefully will be better because of it.”

Contact J.J. at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Huntington (1-2) at Northwood (2-1), Jerry Burton Memorial Stadium

Series: Huntington 15-7

Last year: Did not play

Last week: Huntington lost to Neville 49-12; Northwood beat Airline 35-28

Rankings: Huntington is No. 9 in SBJ poll; Northwood is No. 6 in LSWA 4A poll, No. 6 in SBJ poll

Radio: Northwood (Miracle 89.1 FM)

Notable: You can’t blame Huntington for having a particular goal in mind this year as the Raiders prepare for a big district opener against Northwood. The Raiders have not won or shared a district championship since 1985. “The schedule we have played has all been built around being 1-0 for the next seven weeks and do something that hasn’t been done in the last 30 or 40 years and that’s win a district championship,” said coach Stephen Dennis … Dennis pointed to the efforts of running back John Solomon against Neville last week.  Solomon had 13 carries for 70 yards against an impressive Neville defensive line … “He ran the ball really well,” Dennis said. “The offense executed the game plan on what we wanted to do. The way we moved the ball wasn’t indicated by the score” … A big problem for the Raiders was staying on the field as they converted on 4 of 14 third-down opportunities and missed on fourth down three times.

The Falcons held Airline to just 2 of 13 of third- and fourth-down conversions in last week’s win … Turnovers have been a problem as the Falcons are minus-4 in takeaways through three games … Defensive back Jeremiah Reed (26), defensive back Mar’Jayvious Moss (23) and defensive end Taderius Collins (22, three QB sacks) are the leading tacklers through three games for the Northwood defense … Moss already has a 60-yard kickoff return and a 55-yard punt return.