For one half, the Houston football team played with — and sometimes better than — Ash Grove.
It was the other half of the game that hurt the Tigers.
Ash Grove scored 37 first-half points Friday night en route to a 44-6 home victory against Houston.
On paper, it appeared to be another lopsided loss for the Tigers, who haven’t won since the 2009 season finale. But that was hardly the case.
With Ash Grove’s starters still in the game, the Houston offense had two drives that eventually stalled in the red zone before scoring midway through the fourth quarter. Ash Grove was scoreless at that point until answering the Tigers’ touchdown with one of their own.
The first half was 37-0 in Ash Grove’s favor. The second was just 7-6.
“The things we talked about doing, we did them much better in the second half,” HHS coach David Williams said. “They pretty much left their players in the game. They didn’t change uniforms at halftime.”
Williams said he and the coaching staff were “at a loss to figure out what goes on in the beginning of a game.” Houston (0-5) has been outscored 144-7 in the first half this season. Opponents have a 36-point advantage in the second half.
“It’s somewhere in here,” Williams said as he pointed to his head, “where it’s not going right. We just don’t play with any urgency early in the game.”
Junior Drake Bell had 68 of the Tigers’ 96 rushing yards and his second touchdown of the season. Weston Walker was 11-of-27 passing for 106 and two interceptions.
Bell picked off a second-quarter pass for Houston’s first interception of the season. Rodney Preheim recovered a fumble, and Kaden Miller blocked a punt to set up the Tigers’ fourth-quarter touchdown.
Like each of Houston’s previous four opponents, Ash Grove did its offensive damage via the running game.
The Pirates ran the ball on 39 of their 41 plays for 341 yards. Logan Allred led the way with 10 carries for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
“They didn’t do one thing that we didn’t talk about, show them and go over in practice,” Williams said. “They ran the same three plays that we told them, ‘This is what they do and this is how they do it.’ We just don’t execute very well sometimes.”
Ash Grove (4-1) scored just 1 minute, 58 seconds into the game and found the end zone on five of its first six possessions.
After putting up little resistance in the first half, the Tigers’ defense suddenly put up a fight in the second half. Clay Ashworth had consecutive tackles for losses before Houston forced a punt on the Pirates’ first possession of the second half. On Ash Grove’s second possession, Houston again forced a punt — only this time Miller broke through the middle of the line and blocked it.
“I can’t figure out why we don’t play that way from the start,” Williams said. “We didn’t change anything at halftime. We did the same exact things, because we felt like that was what needed to be done.”
Houston, which advanced to the Ash Grove 19- and 11-yard lines without scoring in the third quarter, recovered the blocked punt on the Ash Grove 28. Walker hit Dakota Stigall with a 22-yard pass and two plays later, Bell galloped into the end zone to make it 37-6.
Ash Grove coach Doug Martin was so furious with his team’s play that he called a timeout during Houston’s second drive of the second half. His team led by 37 points at the time.
“I’d love to play a whole game that way,” Williams said, “and see what happens.”
ASH GROVE 44, HOUSTON 6
AG — Hurst 39 run (run failed), 10:02.
AG — Allred 24 run (Allred run), 5:24.
AG — Allred 62 run (Proctor run), 0:59.
AG — Hurst 56 run (Mulkey kick), 7:10.
AG — Proctor 4 run (Brinson pass from Proctor), 4:44.
HOU — Bell 4 run (kick failed), 5:30
AG — Allred 41 run (Mulkey kick), 3:54.
RUSHING — Houston, Bell 17-68, WWalker 15-28. Ash Grove, Allred 10-157, Hurst 7-95, Snyder 10-41, Brinson 4-19, Proctor 5-14, Mooneyham 2-9, Landis 1-0.
PASSING — Houston, WWalker 11-27-2 106. Ash Grove, Proctor 1-2-1 6.
RECEIVING — Houston, Stigall 5-58, Barker 2-22, TySmith 3-17, Kelley 1-9.