The Houston High School football team started strong with an opening drive that went as close as inches from the goal line.
The Tigers didn’t get those mere inches, and a fast start faded just as quickly.
After stopping the Tigers short of the goal line to begin Friday’s game, Ava scored 35 unanswered points and cruised to a 47-7 victory at Tiger Stadium.
There were plenty of positives for Houston. Just not enough. The Tigers (0-4, 0-4 South Central Association) remained winless and lost their 14th consecutive game.
“I know ‘if’ is a big word,” Houston coach David Williams said. “A score early in the game would have meant the world to our mental outlook on the game.”
Houston had a season-high 307 yards of total offense — a majority courtesy of junior Weston Walker’s 238 yards passing. The Tigers also had two more first downs than Ava.
But the Bears capitalized on three turnovers — a pair of fumbles and Walker’s fourth interception of the season — that led to 21 points.
“Bad things will happen through the course of the game,” Williams said. “You have to forget about them and go on to the next play. I keep trying to hammer that in. Hopefully it will stick.”
While Houston did its offensive damage through the air, the Bears pounded out 321 of their 326 yards on the ground. Kyle Clinkingbeard led the way with 32 carries for 221 yards.
Williams had a different view of the game. Literally. He was hospitalized earlier in the day with high blood sugar and released just before the game. He sat in the pressbox the entirety of the game.
“I was told I couldn’t be on the sidelines or I couldn’t go,” Williams said. “I didn’t have much of a choice.”
Williams said it was the first time in his career he wasn’t on the sidelines. He will return to the field Friday at Ash Grove.
“As far as calling the game, I liked it,” Williams said. “But you’re kind of detached from the game. You can’t hear what’s going on and when we were on defense, I was just an observer like everyone else. I didn’t like that.”
The Tigers, who haven’t had a lead this season, were a few grass blades away from doing so against unbeaten Ava (4-0, 3-0).
Two plays after Drake Bell’s eight-yard run on fourth-and-1 kept Houston’s opening drive alive, Walker hit Tyler Smith streaking down the seam for a 39-yard gain to the Ava 4-yard line.
Three plays later, Walker kept the ball on a zone-read running play and lunged for the end zone. The nose of the ball was marked right at the goal line. On the next play, Bell was dropped for a two-yard loss as Houston turned the ball over on downs.
The Tigers defense forced a punt, but Ava got the ball right back when Houston failed to cover a screen pass that was ruled a fumble. Cody Wallace ran it in from 14 yards away to make it 7-0.
Clinkingbeard had a one-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. He added another — this time from 10 yards away — with 1 minute, 43 seconds left in the half after the Tigers’ second lost fumble.
Trailing 35-0 after Clinkingbeard’s third and fourth rushing touchdowns, the Tigers covered 70 yards in nine plays for their lone points. Walker connected with Ty Wilkins on a 25-yard pass that moved the ball to the 6 yard line. Walker scored on a 1 yard run — his second rushing touchdown of the season — three plays later.
Wilkins, a freshman, led Houston with five catches for 81 yards. Dakota Stigall had four receptions for 63 yards, and Smith hauled in four catches for 59 yards.
Walker, who completed 17 of his 36 attempts, threw for more yardage than his previous three starts combined.
“I feel like we’re making progress,” Williams said. “Not as fast as we’d like, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
AVA 47, HOUSTON 7
AVA – Wallace 14 run (Loge kick), 3:56.
AVA – Clinkingbeard 1 run (Loge kick), 7:13.
AVA – Clinkingbeard 10 run (Loge kick), 1:43.
AVA – Clinkingbeard 4 run (Loge kick), 10:02.
AVA – Clinkingbeard 18 run (Loge kick), 8:24.
HOU – Walker 1 run (Preheim kick), 3:17.
AVA – Loge 38 run (kick failed), 7:16.
AVA – Wallace 11 run (kick failed), 4:10.
RUSHING — Ava, Clinkingbeard 32-221, Wallace 8-39, Loge 1-38, Akers 3-21, Willis 1-2. Houston, WWalker 19-43, Bell 12-21, Foster 1-4, Wilkins 1-1.
PASSING — Ava, Loge 1-8-0 5. Houston, WWalker 17-36-1 238.
RECEIVING — Ava, Boyd 1-5. Houston, Wilkins 5-81, Stigall 4-63, TySmith 4-59, Barker 3-38, Bell 1-(minus-3).