It was more than another loss. The Houston football team finally has something positive to build on.
The Tigers led an opponent for the first time this season and were within striking distance in the fourth quarter. Houston eventually lost to visiting Lockwood 28-14 Friday night, but the defeat was much different than the previous four to begin the season.
“The players after the game were disappointed because they knew they had a chance to win,” Houston coach David Williams said. “But at the same time, when they came in Monday, they seemed to have a more positive outlook on things.”
The biggest boost was the play of sophomore Drake Bell, who the previous week took over running back duties when starter Jacob Case left the team.
In just his second career start in the backfield, Bell ran for a team-best 122 yards on 20 carries. He also had a 48-yard punt return that set up the second of his two rushing touchdowns.
Not bad for someone who two games earlier was playing wide receiver.
“We really just said, ‘Hey, Drake, you’re going to play running back this week’ before the Ava game,” Williams said.
Williams said Bell’s attitude made him the ideal candidate for the midseason position change.
“The thing about him is he wants to learn. You’ve got somebody willing to listen and willing to try to get better,” Williams said. “I think he’s going to be a really good running back at some point. He’s still learning.”
Bell’s 3-yard touchdown run and ensuing two-point conversion pulled Houston (0-5) within seven points with 8 minutes, 32 seconds.
But Ash Grove answered with a quick six-play, 62-yard scoring drive to go ahead 28-14 and intercepted Tigers quarterback Kyle Jones on the next two possessions.
Houston committed four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble — and couldn’t finish a third-quarter drive that stalled on the Ash Grove 11-yard line. The Tigers also committed a season-worst 10 penalties.
“We had a chance to do some awfully good things and still made too many mistakes,” Williams said.
Ash Grove out-gained the Tigers 263-170 and didn’t commit a turnover. Three different players had rushing scores and quarterback Nick Cashio, who was 5-of-10 passing for 62 yards, had a 25-yard touchdown toss to Jacob Watson.
Jones was 2-of-12 passing for 19 yards. He also ran for 26 yards.
After stopping the Pirates (3-2) on downs to open the game, the Tigers covered 61 yards in eight plays to take their first lead of the 2010 season.
Jones hit Dakota Stigall with a 12-yard third-down pass early in the drive, and Bell’s 38-yard run — the team’s longest play from scrimmage this year — moved the ball to the Ash Grove 8. Three plays later, Bell scored from 4 yards away to make it 6-0.
Houston’s lead disappeared early in the second quarter. Nick Console took a pitch around the left end and scooted into the end zone to make it 7-6.
Ash Grove extended its lead in the third quarter on Cashio’s 4-yard touchdown run and 25-yard pass to Watson.
Bell pulled the Tigers within striking distance when he fielded a punt near midfield and darted to the 8-yard line. He scored two plays later and converted a conversion run to make it 21-14.
“The effort was much better than it had been. We keep harping on that, and it seemed like they took it to heart and as a group played harder,” Williams said.
“The good things we did, hopefully we can build on them and improve on what we did last week.”
ASH GROVE 28, HOUSTON 14
Ash Grove 0 7 14 7 –– 28
Houston 6 0 0 8 –– 14
HOU –– Bell 4 run (run failed), 5:20.
AG –– Console 11 run (Chapman kick), 11:21.
AG –– Cashio 4 run (Chapman kick), 7:25.
AG –– Watson 25 pass from Cashio (Chapman kick), 4:14.
HOU –– Bell 3 run (Bell run), 8:32.
AG –– Snyder 3 run (Chapman kick), 5:44.
First downs 11 7
Total yards 263 170
Rushes-yards 45-201 33-155
Passing 62 19
Punt returns 0-0 1-48
Kickoff returns 3-66 4-108
Comp-att-int 5-10-0 2-12-3
Sacked-yards lost 1-1 2-6
Punts 4-40.8 3-39.7
Penalties 4-45 10-55
Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-1
RUSHING –– Ash Grove, Console 14-70, Snyder 12-54, 39 Fletcher-39, Jett 5-22, Cashio 10-12, Proctor 2-2, Brinson 1-2. Houston, Bell 20-122, Jones 12-26, Neugebaurer, 1-3.
PASSING –– Ash Grove, Cashio 5-10-0 62. Houston, Jones 2-12-3 19.
RECEIVING –– Ash Grove, Watson 1-25, Console 1-16, Snyder 1-9, Chapman 1-7, Moran 1-5. Houston, Stigall 1-12, Bell 1-7.