ONA -- With their names plastered on posters all around Knights Field, the Cabell Midland senior football players starred Friday on their Senior Night.
The Knights (6-4) finished their regular season by overcoming a trying week with a 42-17 victory against Riverside (4-5), their most resounding and complete performance of the season in the biggest game of the season. A loss would have doomed either team's playoff hopes.
"I think it was an outstanding performance on both sides of the ball," said Cabell Midland head coach Chip McMillian. "With all the distractions this week they were able to overcome it all and I'm happy for the seniors. It's a great memory for them to have the rest of their lives, but we have to put it all behind us and make a run at this thing. I think there's a a lot of parity this year, and anything can happen."
McMillian swayed back and forth about coaching the team this week in the face of what he has described as health concerns but was on the sidelines in support of the team and seniors on Friday even if he left the bulk of the coaching duties to assistant coach Curry Haggerty and the rest of his staff. And the 14 Knights seniors made him proud, especially his four captains -- Corey Cole, Jordan Cole, Wade Midkiff and Josh Turley -- who were instrumental.
Midkiff rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns, Turley intercepted a pass, Jordan Cole caught the longest Midland pass of the night for a first down that set up an early go-ahead score, and Corey Cole anchored a dominant offensive line that racked up 333 yards on the ground.
"The seniors played great, but it was a great performance by everybody," Midkiff said. "A lot of young guys stepped up. We passed the ball well, we ran the ball well, we stopped them on defense when it counted. It's definitely the best we've played this season and when it counted most."
"And that's not even the best we can play," Turley said in response to Midkiff. "We can still play a lot better and still have a lot more to do."
Midkiff took his first two carries 7 and 60 yards for a score on the first Cabell Midland drive of the game to give the Knights a 7-3 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter. He added a 5-yard score and a 2-yard TD to close the half with a 21-3 lead. He also rushed for 42 yards on the opening drive of the second half to set up a 3-yard touchdown by Christian Edwards. Turley's interception followed an Edwards fumble, and junior reserve quarterback Josh Ferguson carried twice on a two-play drive and scored from 7 yards out for a 35-3 lead.
By then, with only 1:22 left in the third quarter, the Knights seniors could take the rest of the game off. Riverside reserve quarterback Chucky Erby connected with Steven Ransbottom for two long touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Midland senior Mark Deal also scored one more TD for the Knights on a 3-yard carry set up by a 47-yard rumble by brother Zack Deal.
It was a dominant effort from all the Midland seniors.
"We played tonight like we were capable of playing in spite of the old coach," McMillian said. "They stepped up."
Now they can take next week off and plan for a postseason berth. The pairings for the playoffs are not announced until after Week 11 games Friday. The Knights entered Friday 18th in the Class AAA West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission ratings and only the top 16 teams make the playoffs. McMillian said the win should be enough to bump the Knights in to the top 14.
Anything is better than packing up for the winter, especially for 14 seniors who faced the end of their careers if they lost on Friday.
"This isn't where we wanted the story to end," Midkiff said. "It was a must-win to keep our season alive and our football careers alive.
"We still have a lot more to prove."
RIVERSIDE3 0 0 14 -- 17
CABELL MIDLAND7 14 14 7 -- 42
R-Upton 26 field goal
CM-Midkiff 60 run (Bledsoe kick)
CM-Midkiff 5 run (kick failed)
CM-Midkiff 2 run (Fetty pass to Midkiff)
CM-Edwards 3 run (Bledsoe kick)
CM-Ferguson 7 run (Bledsoe kick)
R-Ransbottom 24 pass from Erby (Upton kick)
CM-M. Deal 3 run (Bledsoe kick)
R-Ransbottom 65 pass from Erby (Upton kick)
First downs 13 24
Total Net Yards 224 371
Rushes-yards 29-67 37-333
Passing-yards 157 38
Comp-Att-Int 10-17-1 3-5-1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-yards 4-25 1-15
RUSHING -- Riverside: Humphreys 14-28, Williams 6-18, Walls 2-13, Erby 2-8, Washington 2-minus 4, Foster 1-5, Wilson 1-1, McClure 1-minus 2. Cabell Midland: Midkiff 18-167, 3 TD; Edwards 5-35, TD; Turley 3-15; M. Deal 3-17, TD; Fetty 3-13; Ferguson 2-35, TD; Z. Deal 1-47; Morabito 1-3; J. Cole 1-1.
PASSING -- Riverside: Veazey 4-6, 31 yards; Erby 6-11-1, 126 yards, 2 TD. Cabell Midland: Fetty 3-5-1, 38 yards.
RECEIVING -- Riverside: Foster 3-43, Ransbottom 2-89, 2 TD; Crabtree 2-16; McClure 1-4; Williams 1-3; Humphreys 1-2. Cabell Midland: J. Cole 1-18, Brewer 1-11, Midkiff 1-9.