The Houston Tigers are no longer in the hunt for the district title.
No worries. Thanks to MSHSAA’s new playoff format, Houston still has plenty on the line.
Despite a 31-8 loss to Mountain View-Liberty in the second round of districts, the Tigers can still make the postseason with a victory Friday night at Cuba. The top two teams in each district advance to the playoffs for the first time this season.
A victory would give Houston (5-4, 3-3 SCA) its first playoff appearance since the second of back-to-back semifinal appearances in 2006. The Tigers would travel to Fair Grove, the seventh-ranked team in Class 2, on Wednesday.
“There are a couple big things about this week. First, if we win, we’re in the playoffs,” Houston coach Chris Edwards said. “The other is a winning record. We’ll be 5-5 or 6-4 and there’s quite a bit of difference. For these kids to be able to say they’re winners on the season would be a pretty big step for the program and especially for them.”
The Tigers had their chances to win the district outright. But they couldn’t cash in.
Houston lost two fumbles in the red zone and another time failed to score from the 3-yard line when a bad snap sailed past quarterback David Weybright. Then there’s the opening kickoff, which Liberty recovered on the 21 and scored on the game’s first offensive play.
Those 28 points were too much to overcome against the speedy Eagles (7-2, 4-2 SCA).
“The game could have been a lot different, but we won’t make any excuses,” Edwards said. “They’re a good team and they beat us.”
The Tigers’ miscues began from the get-go. Liberty’s opening kickoff sailed high in the air and landed between Houston’s last two rows of returners. The Tigers failed to recover the ball, giving the Eagles possession just 21 yards away from the end zone.
Twelve seconds later, Ethan Taylor took a pitch around the right side and raced untouched for a touchdown.
“It was a good kick by them to put it there in the corner, but we’ve got to cover those,” Edwards said. “Our return man didn’t get up there quick enough to get on it.”
The Tigers had 18 first downs – more than double Liberty’s total of eight – and ran 12 more offensive plays. But they managed just 32 rushing yards and turned the ball over three times.
Settling for short passes against Liberty’s sagging defensive backs, Weybright completed a season-high 29 of his 44 pass attempts for 252 yards. But he was sacked three times and threw his 11th interception of the season.
Kyle Poynter caught 10 passes for 118 yards, and Ty Scheets had nine receptions for 72 yards, including his third touchdown catch of the season to account for Houston’s lone points.
Edwards said the Eagles’ defense dictated the Tigers’ short passing game. Only eight of Weybright’s completions were more than nine yards.
“They were playing off our outside receivers,” Edwards said. “You have to take advantage of what they give you, and that’s what they gave us.”
After forcing Houston to punt on its first possession, Liberty went ahead 13-0 when Luke Yarber hit Paris Walkup in stride for a 20-yard score on fourth-and-10.
Houston sustained a long second-quarter drive and reached the red zone for the first time at the 19-yard line. But senior Martin Crawford had the ball stripped following a short reception on the next play.
Down 19-0 after Liberty covered 90 yards in eight plays, the Tigers again marched near paydirt when Scheets was stopped at the 3-yard line following a 17-yard reception. But the ensuing snap from center Bobby Campbell sailed past Weybright, who covered the ball at the 21. Houston failed to score.
Liberty made the mistake sting even more when Yarber ran 75 yards untouched with 25 seconds left in the half for a 25-0 lead.
Scheets, who fumbled at the 17-yard line in the third quarter to end another drive short of the end zone, provided the Tigers’ only points when he grabbed a perfectly-placed lob pass from Weybright for a 7-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
“We moved the ball offensively,” Edwards said. “We just couldn’t finish drives with the mistakes we had.”
LIBERTY 31, HOUSTON 8
Liberty 13 12 6 0 – 31
Houston 0 0 0 8 – 8
MV – Taylor 21 run (Daniels kick), 11:48.
MV – Walkup 20 pass from Yarber (kick failed), 6:05.
MV – Yarber 1 run (kick failed), 5:28.
MV – Yarber 75 run (kick failed), 0:29.
MV – Walkup 12 pass from Yarber (pass failed), 2:04.
HOU – TScheets 7 pass from Weybright (Poynter pass from Weybright), 10:21.
First downs 8 18
Total net yards 334 284
Rushes-yards 37-195 18-32
Passing 139 252
Punt returns 1-1 0-0
Kickoff returns 2-20 5-44
Comp-Att-Int 9-13-0 29-44-1
Sacked-yards lost 2-17 3-23
Punts-avg. 5-34.4 3-28.0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 7-85 3-20
RUSHING – Liberty, Yarber 16-93, Taylor 20-80, Daniels 1-22. Houston, Schmidt 12-78, Weybright 6-(minus 46).
PASSING – Liberty, Yarber 9-13-0 139. Houston, Weybright 29-44-1 252.
RECEIVING – Liberty, Walkup, 5-85, Reyes 2-52, Moore 1-5, Taylor 1-(minus 3). Houston, Poynter 10-118, TScheets 9-72, Pounds 5-29, Crawford 4-28, Schmidt 2-6.