LOCKWOOD — Slow starts have been an unfortunate common theme for the Houston football team.
The Tigers again faced a large early deficit Friday night at Lockwood and despite playing better in the second half, lost 40-13.
The opening 24 minutes have been difficult ones for Houston (0-6). The Tigers have been outscored 170-7 in the first half this season but only 75-38 in the second half.
It was the same story at Lockwood. The Tigers were outscored by a point in the second half.
And Lockwood (4-1) didn’t take its starters out of the game.
“It’s obvious to anyone who watches that we don’t play well to begin games,” HHS coach David Williams said. “We’ve got to somehow figure out a way or get through to the players to start the game the way we finish it.”
Doing so remains a mystery.
“The coaching staff is at a loss,” Williams said. “We prepare the same every week. We talk about this issue in practice, and it still continues to happen. Right now, we don’t have the answer. We’re trying.”
Behind 26-0 at the half — the deficit grew to 32 points when Isaac Lasater returned the opening kick of the third quarter 74 yards for a touchdown — Houston played with Lockwood down the stretch.
Weston Walker scrambled 20 yards for a score late in the third quarter and connected with Tyler Smith for a 10-yard score in the fourth.
Walker was 14-of-29 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception.
Eight of his completions landed in the hands of senior Dakota Stigall, who had a career-best 105 yards receiving. Smith had three receptions for 37 yards and a score.
It was the third consecutive big game for Stigall, who was moved to the slot after freshman Ty Wilkins broke his collarbone. Stigall has 17 receptions for 226 yards the past three weeks.
“That position is the go-to guy in this offense,” Williams said. “A lot of the things we do are geared to get him open.”
The game started poorly for the Tigers. Walker was intercepted on the second play by Lasater. Two plays later, Brent Chambers darted 67 yards for a score.
Lasater had a 1-yard rushing score on Lockwood’s second possession and hit Elijah Pitts with a nine-yard strike on the third series to make it 20-0. On the fourth possession, Lasater connected with Chambers for a 4-yard touchdown.
Lasater was 8-of-23 passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted by Houston’s Drake Bell.
Chambers ran the ball 12 times for 187 yards and two scores. Lockwood had 271 rushing yards and 444 total.
Williams said Houston’s slow starts begin in warm-ups.
“It’s a continuing issue,” he said. “We tell them, ‘The enthusiasm has to come from you. We can prepare you to do what we need to do to be successful. But from the time we go to the field to warm up until the game, that’s on you.'”
Trailing 32-0, Houston finally showed some life.
The Tigers’ first possession of the second half advanced to the Lockwood 19-yard line before stalling. The second ended with a 20-yard rushing score by Walker. It was his third of the season.
Houston’s final possession of the game also ended in the end zone. Walker hit Jacob Kelley and Randy Barker on consecutive plays for gains of 26 and 27 yards to move to the 10-yard line. On the next play, he hit Smith for a 10-yard score.
It was Smith’s first career varsity touchdown and Walker’s second TD pass of the season.
“The third quarter was a little different story. The fourth quarter, again, was a different story,” Williams said. “But you can’t put yourself in that position every game and expect to win.”
LOC — Chambers 67 run (Chambers run), 10:54.
LOC — Lasater 1 run (pass failed), 4:31.
LOC — Pitts 9 pass from Lasater (run failed), 10:41.
LOC — Chambers 4 pass from Lasater (pass failed), 4:28.
LOC — Lasater 74 kick return (run failed), 11:42.
HOU — WWalker 20 run (Preheim kick), 1:35.
LOC — Chambers 29 run (St. John pass from Lasater), 8:46.
HOU — TySmith 10 pass from WWalker (kick failed), 1:31.
RUSHING — Houston, Bell 20-40, WWalker 9-33. Lockwood, Chamber 12-187, Lasater 10-52, Sowell 6-24, Brown 4-12, Bohne 1-2, Spain 4-(minus-6).
PASSING — Houston, WWalker 14-29-1 205. Lockwood, Lasater 8-23-1 173.
RECEIVING — Houston, Stigall 8-105, TySmith 3-37, Kelley 2-36, Barker 1-27. Lockwood, Pitts 3-93, Spain 2-61, Brown 2-15, Chambers 1-4.