PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — It’s a phone call Luke Salmons won’t forget for some time.
The Cabell Midland High School football coach was preparing to guide his starting unit through a scrimmage with Fairmont Senior at East-West Stadium when he got a call Friday afternoon from the administration at Parkersburg South.
The Patriots, who were originally scheduled to play University in their regular season opener, invited the Knights to the Erickson All-Sports Facility after learning Monongalia County schools were prohibited from playing due to the area’s spike in COVID-19 cases.
“They were excited to scrimmage, because they hadn’t done that,” Salmons said. “We were literally getting ready for the varsity kids to take the field for their 10 plays and I got call from South that said, ‘Can you guys still come?’”
After navigating 173 miles to Fairmont, the Knights packed up their equipment and traveled an additional 92 miles to face PSHS.
Cabell Midland made the most of its unforgettable day, using four rushing touchdowns from Jakob Caudill and a 35-point second quarter to power past the Patriots, 69-34.
“That’s the first time we’ve done anything and we’re replacing a lot of kids, so we’re going to continue to build off of this and get better,” Salmons said. “It was a heck of a day. We just wanted to give our kids an opporunity to play.”
The Knights, who were slated to open with Riverside until Kanawha County schools discovered they wouldn’t be able to play this weekend, wasted little time in building a lead.
An eight play, 51-yard opening drive was punctuated by Caudill’s first touchdown from 1 yard with 8:28 to play in the opening quarter.
The Patriots (0-1) pulled even at 7 just 2:49 later when Sam Schuler connected with Cyrus Traugh for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Traugh made the scoring reception off a deflection on fourth-and-12.
Isaiah Vaughn’s 6-yard touchdown run 1:56 into the second quarter gave Cabell Midland (1-0) the lead for good. The Knights added to it with 7:19 left in the opening half when Caudill broke free for a 35-yard TD scamper to make it 21-7.
After Chandler Schmidt picked off Schuler and returned it 65 yards, CMHS got a 7-yard run from Caudill to hold a 28-7 lead.
Jayden Johnson then made it 35-7 when he recovered a Devin Gaines fumble and returned it 41 yards to pay dirt — the Knights’ third touchdown in a span of 1:19.
“I was going to help on a tackle and I saw the ball come out. I grabbed it and went and scored and made a play,” Johnson said.
Gaines provided the Patriots with his first of two touchdowns — a 4-yard run — to cut the deficit to 21 with 2:36 left in the half.
Johnson’s 47-yard touchdown run 22 seconds before halftime appeared set to give Cabell Midland a 28-point halftime lead, but Levi Rice returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a score to send PSHS into halftime trailing 42-21.
“We’ve been working super hard, so we were excited to go scrimmage Fairmont Senior,” Johnson said. “We were on the field about to play them, and coach was like, ‘You want to go play Parkersburg South?’ We’ve been preparing for this, so I’m happy for our team.”
The Patriots converted two fourth downs on their first series of the second half, including Gaines’ 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal that brought them to within 42-28 at the 8:09 mark of the third quarter.
But the Knights reeled off the next 20 points to put to rest any thought of a South comeback, getting a 47-yard TD run from Caudill, a 9-yard TD run from Schmidt and a 41-yard TD run from Jackson Fetty to take a 62-28 lead.
With virtually no preparation time for either team, the Knights handled the circumstances better.
“It was very difficult. I’m not going to make excuses though,” PSHS head coach Nathan Tanner said. “They just punched us in the mouth. I had an OK idea of what they were going to do, but 45 minutes isn’t enough to stop Cabell Midland. “What they do is very tough to stop in itself, but without any preparation makes it even tougher.“
Schuler tossed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Rice and Vaughn returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a TD to cap the scoring.
The Knights and Patriots had been scheduled to meet Oct. 23.
“How long are we going to play? I don’t know,” Salmons said. “But if we’re given that opportunity, the kids deserve it, so let’s go play.”