The Houston High School football team will open the 2014 season with a new opponent and several new coaches.
The Tigers kick off a new campaign on Aug. 22 when they host Hollister at Tiger Stadium. It’s the first of five home games on Houston’s nine-game regular season schedule.
On the sidelines with third-year HHS head coach Billy O’Neil will be an almost entirely new staff. Assistants Vince McCrosky, Eric Sloan, Ken Cooperman and Jack Johnson were hired during the offseason. Todd McKinney, who with Johnson will coach the middle school program, and O’Neil are the lone returning coaches.
HHS has never faced Hollister, which launched its program in 2008 and enters its fifth season of varsity competition. Hollister replaces Cuba as the only new team from last season’s schedule.
Members of the Central Ozarks Conference, Hollister –– who like HHS are also the Tigers –– went 2-8 in 2013 and 1-5 in the conference. The team’s lone victories were a 16-13 win against Buffalo and 38-18 decision over Fair Grove.
Hollister will be led by former assistant Jacob Hamon, who was hired in February to replace Kevin Roepke, who stepped down. A standout player at Branson High School and four-year player at Evangel University, Hamon was the defensive coordinator the previous two seasons.
HHS and Hollister had two common opponents last season. The Tigers lost 56-22 to Mountain Grove and 54-0 to Strafford in districts. Hollister was defeated 51-22 by Strafford in the season opener and lost 60-18 to Mountain Grove.
Houston faces two more “Tiger” teams in Weeks 2 and 3 as HHS travels to St. James and Salem. Other road games are Sept. 26 at Ava and Oct. 10 at Mountain Grove.
HHS returns home on Sept. 12 to face rival Cabool and the following week hosts Thayer. Two more home dates are Oct. 3 against Willow Springs and Oct. 17 against Liberty in the regular-season finale.
The Tigers’ district was slightly shaken up by the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s semi-annual realignment. Diamond High School, which is 155 miles west of Houston, and Ash Grove are now part of Class 2 District 3. The teams replace Cuba, which slides over to District 2, and Mountain Grove, which moves up to Class 3. The Panthers join a district with fellow conference foes Salem and Ava.
Houston will replace many of its key players from last year’s team that went 1-9. The top six rushers from a team that gained 2,032 yards on the ground were seniors. Four of the six players who caught passes are also gone.
The Tigers’ lone victory in 2013 was a 40-36 win at Cabool to snap the program’s nine-game losing skid.