CABOOL – Victory at last.
The Houston Tigers brought an abrupt end to a miserable losing skid Friday night in their 2008 season opener. Senior quarterback David Weybright had a pair of first-quarter touchdown runs to stake the Tigers to an early advantage and the defense did the rest, leading Houston to a 12-0 shutout of rival Cabool.
The overdue victory snapped a 21-game losing skid for the Tigers, who hadn’t won a game since the 2005 playoffs. None of the players on the current roster had enjoyed the spoils of victory on the varsity level.
“We were sick of it. We came out here and accomplished what we wanted,” senior Travis Barker said. “This moment makes all the hard work, sweat, injuries, up-downs, running extra, late practices – everything was worth it. We’ve been practicing our butts off for this moment, and it’s only going to get better from here.”
Victory tasted even sweeter against Cabool, which put the finishing touches on two winless seasons with lopsided 48-14 and 42-12 thumpings of Houston to end the 2006 and ’07 seasons. The Bulldogs were the fourth-ranked team in Class 1.
“This is the best feeling I’ve felt my entire life,” said junior Brad Pounds. “There’s nothing like it.”
Houston (1-0, 1-0 SCA) did just enough offensively. Weybright capped the opening drive of the season with an 11-yard touchdown scamper, and the lead stretched to 12-0 when Weybright got loose in the secondary and sprinted 45 yards for another score late in the first quarter.
The defense did the rest, forcing four turnovers and keeping Cabool (0-1, 0-1 SCA) out of the end zone on three trips to the red zone in the final 13 minutes of the game.
Linebacker J.R. Knetzer sealed the Tigers’ shutout when he picked off Lucas Cooperman on the Houston 4-yard line with 32 seconds left.
“The defense played amazing,” Weybright said. “We had guys cramping up, me included, and we had some young guys come in for seniors and play their hearts out. Watching them get in those tough spots and get out made it feel like destiny.”
Weybright was solid with his arm, completing 15 of his 30 pass attempts for 172 yards. But he was surprisingly good with his legs. With new plays inserted into the offense to boost the running game, Weybright racked up 97 yards – 32 more than his total from last season – on eight carries and scored both of the team’s touchdowns.
Senior Martin Crawford had four catches for 71 yards, highlighted by a 54-yard catch and run on the game’s third play that set up Houston’s first score. Ty Scheets had 42 yards on a team-high five catches.
After connecting with Crawford for an important first down on the Tigers’ first drive, Weybright hit Pounds with a pair of shorts passes and had a 12-yard scamper to move the ball to the Cabool 11. He rolled to the left on the next play and scooted untouched into the end zone.
The Tigers, who went to a no-huddle offense this season, scored in exactly 2 minutes.
“It’s a big confidence boost to get the ball and score because you realize, ‘Yeah, we can do this. We have improved and it’s possible to win these games,'” Weybright said.
Barker had the first of two fumble recoveries late in the first quarter to set up another score. One play after a 10-yard reception, Pounds picked off a blitzing linebacker as Weybright again got loose in the secondary on a quarterback isolation and raced 45 yards to put Houston in front 12-0.
The Houston offense’s fast start faded in the second half as Weybright misfired on seven straight passes and the Tigers went 3-and-out on all five possessions. But the defense took over.
Houston out-gained Cabool 258-220 and held the run-heavy Bulldogs to three yards per rush en route to the team’s first shutout under defensive coordinator Billy O’Neil. Cabool was 3-for-12 on third down and converted just one of its five fourth downs.
Adam Fleming had two sacks and three of Houston’s nine tackles for losses in his first varsity start. Scheets had a team-high 13 tackles and one interception.
Cabool moved the ball to the Houston 6, 13 and 14 yard lines in three of its last four possessions. But each time the Tigers’ defense turned the Bulldogs over on downs.
“I’ve got to give credit to my seniors and juniors. They never lost hope,” Edwards said. “Our word of the week was ‘believe,’ and they did.”