The two teams who will take the field Friday night at Houston’s Tiger Stadium share many similarities.
Both feature H’s on the sides of their helmets.
Both have Tigers as mascots.
And both enter the 2014 campaign hoping to turn struggling programs in a winning direction.
The high school football season officially begins at 7 p.m. as the HHS Tigers host the Hollister Tigers in Houston.
Both teams have struggled to sustain success in recent years. Hollister, which launched its football program in 2008, was 2-8 last year after going winless each of the previous two seasons. Houston was 1-9 last year and has three combined wins the past two seasons.
“I’ve told (the players) it’s time to quit being the doormat,” third-year HHS coach Billy O’Neil said.
Houston, which last won its season opener in 2008, calls upon a new cast of players and coaching staff to bring success to the program. The team returns just three offensive and four defensive starters. O’Neil is the lone holdover on the varsity coaching staff.
The biggest changes are in the HHS backfield, which graduated its top six rushers and every player that accounted for last year’s 21 offensive touchdowns.
The Houston offense will be under the direction of junior Nathan Poynter, who started the final three games at quarterback last season after Devin Coulter injured his ankle. Poynter was 5-for-27 passing for 51 yards.
Running duties in Houston’s double wing attack now belong to seniors Ty Wilkins and Scott Logan along with fullbacks Stetson Welch, Tristan Cooper and Malachi Sawyer. None of those plays has a varsity rushing attempt.
On the sidelines, Houston’s new look comes in the form of three assistant coaches with more than 50 years of coaching experience. Former Cabool head coaches Vince McCrosky and Eric Sloan are assisting with the offense and Ken Cooperman has taken over the defense. Both Sloan and Cooperman have previously coached alongside O’Neil as HHS assistants.
Hollister is making a transition of its own with its program.
Jacob Hammon is the new head coach and has moved the offense from a spread to the single-wing. His hope, he said, is to control the clock.
Hollister’s top returning player is senior Chandler Shook, who accounted for 823 total yards – 373 on the ground and 450 through the air – and 14 touchdowns last year.
Houston and Hollister have not faced off in football. That changes on Friday night.
Hollister at Houston, 7 p.m.
Cabool at Ash Grove, 7 p.m.
Hayti at Thayer, 7 p.m.
Marshfield at Ava, 7 p.m.
Willow Springs at Reeds Spring, 7 p.m.
Rogersville at Mountain Grove, 7 p.m.
Carthersville at Liberty, 7 p.m.
Kirksville at Salem, 1:30 p.m.