In 16 offensive plays, first-year Houston coach David Williams saw many positive things from his team. He also saw several negative ones.
He wasn’t surprised by either extreme.
“Sometimes we looked pretty good and sometimes we didn’t,” Williams said of Friday’s jamboree at Sullivan. “With young kids, that’s what you get.”
With many new players in pivotal roles and learning the system of a new coach, the Tigers had their ups and downs in their public debut.
The good? Three touchdowns in 16 plays, highlighted by a 40-yard pass from Kyle Jones to Brian Hunter on the opening play. Senior tailback Jacob Case also rushed for a pair of scores.
The bad? A snap over the quarterback’s head, inconsistency in the passing game and trouble containing wide running plays on defense.
Williams is hopeful the Tigers can produce more positive plays when they open the 2010 season Friday night at rival Cabool.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” Williams said. “There are a lot of guys that don’t have much varsity experience.”
That applies to the Bulldogs, too. Second-year coach Eric Sloan has just three seniors on his roster and four returning offensive starters.
Although young, Sloan said many of his juniors and sophomores played portions of varsity games last year.
“I think there are some question marks with youth on the field,” Sloan said. “But I don’t think it will be unfamiliar territory for most of them.”
Both teams could use a victory to gain positive momentum after difficult seasons in 2009. The Bulldogs held on for a 20-19 victory by stopping Houston’s two-point conversion attempt with 28 seconds left in last year’s season opener. But they didn’t win another game the rest of the way.
Houston, which managed two wins last year, faces its most difficult stretch of the season after playing Cabool. The Tigers host Salem and Mountain Grove in consecutive weeks before traveling to Ava.
Williams expects the Bulldogs to utilize their team speed with perimeter running plays. He is especially leery of senior Donovan Baker, who he said was likely the fastest player in the SCA.
“Cabool is going to attack us outside,” Williams said. “We saw some of that with Sullivan. They ran some sweeps, and we were really soft on the outside. We’ve got to fix that.”
Sloan said his team’s speed would be important to overcome its lack of size. There are only four players over 200 pounds on the roster. Two have never played a varsity game.
“It’s probably the smallest team Cabool has had in years as far as size goes,” Sloan said. “I hope our athletes can make plays. We’ll try to spread the ball around and let everyone have equal touches.”
Sloan believes the key to beating Houston a second consecutive year is slowing junior quarterback Kyle Jones, who returns after missing the final seven games of last year with a broken collarbone. Sloan expects Williams to use his quarterback with option-reads and other running plays like he has with his previous teams, especially Ava.
If so, the Tigers’ new-look offensive line — featuring Corey Stallcup, Nick Portincaso, Rodney Preheim, Kaden Miller and Corey Scheets — will need to have its way with Cabool’s undersized defensive line.
“The offensive line has been a bright spot for me. They are working well together,” Williams said. “Our first unit is pretty solid. I feel good about that group.”