FAIR GROVE – His team’s season over and a steady drizzle beginning to fall from the dark sky, Houston coach Chris Edwards gathered his seniors one last time. He shared a simple message: thank you.
Despite a season-ending 47-6 loss Wednesday to seventh-ranked Fair Grove in the Class 2 playoffs, the Tigers ended their season as winners. Houston’s 6-5 record buried consecutive winless seasons for good and gave the once struggling program some much-needed momentum for the future.
Edwards gave credit to the Tigers’ turnaround to a senior class that refused to give up as it suffered 21 straight losses.
“That’s truly a special group of young men,” Edwards said. “They stuck with it, even though they had been through two years of 0-10 football. It’s really easy to walk away from that and nobody would have blamed them.
“But they didn’t listen to anybody else. They kept believing in each other and working for each other.”
Beginning with consecutive shutout victories of Cabool and Southern Boone and a hard-fought victory at Ava, Houston enjoyed a season-long journey with a winning record. The Tigers’ record was never lower than one game above .500.
Not bad for a roster that didn’t have a single player who had won a varsity game as a starter.
“Coming off 0-10, some people would have said, ‘Win a game.’ Some might have said, ‘Win two or three,'” Edwards said. “That’s why I don’t set preseason goals.”
The Tigers did their best to hang tough with Fair Grove early. They trailed 14-6 when senior Martin Crawford made a sliding catch in the back of the end zone on fourth-and 16. But behind record-setting running back Caleb Schaffitzel, the Eagles scored 27 unanswered points in the second quarter to take commanding control and cruise to an easy victory.
Fair Grove (12-0) defeated Liberty 26-13 Monday to advance to the state quarterfinals.
“It kind of fell apart for us in the second quarter,” Edwards said. “Defensively, we didn’t have an answer for them.”
Houston got a first-hand look at one of the statistically best running backs in state history. Schaffitzel had his 39th and 40th rushing scores and also had a pair of touchdown receptions. Schaffitzel, a junior who already had more than 2,000 yards rushing entering the postseason, racked up 191 yards on 15 carries and scored on both of his receptions.
“He’s the one player we’ve faced this year that can do it all,” Edwards said. “He’s the complete package.”
Trailing 14-0 after rushing scores by quarterback Cam Bruffett and Schaffitzel, the Tigers covered 76 yards in 12 plays as they moved to the 4-yard line. Quarterback David Weybright was sacked on third down to push Houston back to the 16 and apparently thwart a scoring opportunity. But Weybright hit Crawford in the back of the end zone to make it 14-6.
That’s as close as the Tigers got. Bruffett scored from 13 yards out, Jared Green returned a blocked put for a touchdown and Schaffitzel caught a pair of touchdowns as the Eagles went ahead 41-6 at the half.
The Tigers may have lost their final game, but the 2008 season will be remembered for the team’s six wins.
“For us to have a winning record, it’s something that can never be taken away from these kids,” Edwards said.
FAIR GROVE 47, HOUSTON 6
Houston 6 0 0 0 – 6
Fair Grove 14 27 0 6 – 47
FG – Bruffett 15 run (kick failed), 10:12.
FG – Schaffitzel 4 run (Cleeton pass from Bruffett), 6:13.
HOU – Crawford 16 pass from Weybright (kick failed), 0:08.
FG – Bruffett 13 run (pass failed), 10:21.
FG – Green 10 blocked punt return (Schaffitzel run), 9:25.
FG – Schaffitzel 12 pass from Bruffett (kick failed), 4:56.
FG – Schaffitzel 30 pass from Bruffett (Dastmalchi kick), 0:18.
FG – Schaffitzel 18 run (kick failed), 10:17.
First downs 15 16
Total net yards 220 399
Rushes-yards 24-83 34-299
Passing 137 100
Punt returns 0-0 1-0
Kickoff returns 2-18 2-29
Comp-Att-Int 17-35-0 5-6-0
Sacked-yards lost 2-22 1-5
Punts-avg. 3-35.3 1-33.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 1-10 3-15
RUSHING – Houston, Schmidt 12-62, Pounds 4-27, Weybright 7-(minus 1), Case 1-(minus 5). Fair Grove, Schaffitzel 15-191, Bruffett 8-72, Snczechowski 6-35, Hackett 2-6, Fender 2-(minus 2), Bass 1-(minus 3).
PASSING – Houston, Weybright 17-35-0 137. Fair Grove, Bruffett 5-6-0 100.
RECEIVING – TScheets 7-61, Crawford 4-34, Poynter 3-17, Wilson 1-14, Pounds 1-2. Fair Grove, Schaffitzel 2-42, Cleeton 2-36, Allen 1-22.