Countdown to Kickoff (Huntington): Highlanders have sights set high this season

Huntington High qualified for the playoffs in 2016 despite an injury-riddled season.

HUNTINGTON (WCHS/WVAH) - Huntington was absolutely decimated by injuries in 2016 but still made it to the playoffs and even led South Charleston in their first round matchup before losing to the Black Eagles.

Although, don't expect Huntington to look for a participation trophy.

Billy Seals

"If I wanted to characterize last year, last year wasn't good enough," said head coach Billy Seals.

Jadon Hayes added, "Last year we had a lot of injuries but we still made the playoffs. In that playoff game we were up big, we just gotta close."

The good news for Billy Seals and his team is that many of those injured players return in 2017.

And at key positions too. The Highlanders are loaded at the skill positions. Quarterback Luke Zban is back. So is 14-hundred yard rusher Jadon Hayes. Mike Dawson- a playmaker at receiver is bound to put up some numbers as well.

Is there any part of you who feels sorry for your opposition this year?

Luke Zban

"I mean, yeah, I feel bad for them," said Zban. "But we still have to play to the best of our ability every single down."

Hayes said, "Last year with all of the injuries we were almost just a running team. Now we can run, pass, screen so yes, we'll be a tough matchup."

Of course, having skill players is nothing new at Huntington. But what's taken Billy Seals and his program to the next level the last few years are the big guys up front. Junior Darnell Wright is the next biggest thing. He's already been offered by a number of big time D1 programs including West Virginia and Marshall plus Alabama, Ohio State and Virginia Tech just to name a few.

"Moves really well. 6'6" 280. 83 inch wingspan," said Seals. "He has all the measurables and I've really seen a maturity in him this summer."

Six straight years Huntington has made it to the playoffs. They even played for one in 2013. You get the feeling that one of these years the Highlanders are going to break thru and win one. Question is... will 2017 be the year?

"I feel like this could definitely be the year," said Zban. "Obviously that's the goal every year. We've got a lot of guys. A lot of skill. We can do it."

Huntington opens up its season at Belfry, Kentucky.

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