After three weeks of offensive struggles, Houston coach Billy O’Neil said his team is returning to the backbone of the double wing offense.
“We’re going to get back to running the ball,” O’Neil said following the Tigers’ 40-6 loss Friday night at state-ranked Ava. “It’s what we do, and it’s what we do best.”
The Tigers had little offensive success as they lost their 12th consecutive game. Houston was held to a season-low 167 yards of total offense and kept out of the end zone until the fourth quarter for the second straight week.
Since averaging 248.3 yards per game on the ground in their first three games, the Tigers have managed 150, 195 and 144 the last three games.
O’Neil said attempting to pass the ball in recent games has hurt the running game. HHS was 5-for-17 passing against Ava.
“We’ve gotten away from running the ball a little bit,” he said. “ I still think we can run the ball. We’ve got to get back to the basics, and that’s what we will do this week.”
It begins Friday with homecoming. The Tigers (0-6, 0-4 South Central Association) host conference foe Willow Springs on the biggest night of the season.
The Bears enter the matchup following a 21-14 victory against Salem.
“It’s going to be a battle,” O’Neil said. “Nothing is going to be given to us. Nobody wants to lose to us. It’s going to be like that until we turn things around and our kids step up to the challenge.”
Matt Knarr had two carries for 55 yards to lead the HHS offense. Stetson Welch, who returned after missing one game due to an illness, added 36 yards.
Quarterback Nathan Poynter, who had a fourth-quarter rushing touchdown, threw for 23 yards and one interception.
Thirteen different Ava players carried the ball as the Bears ran for 287 of their 422 total yards. Colton Akers led the rushing attack with five carries for 94 yards.
The Tigers missed a scoring opportunity early in the game when they recovered a fumbled punt on the Ava 37-yard line. Houston moved to the 16 before the drive stalled and the Tigers turned it over on downs.
Ava, the eighth-ranked team in Class 3, scored on four consecutive possessions to take a 26-point halftime lead.
Kane Thompson, Akers and Shannon Porter had rushing touchdowns to put the Bears (5-1, 3-1 SCA) ahead 20-0. Nate Bray added to the lead when he picked off a pass and returned it 39 yards for a score with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first half.
Gerald Smith scored from 11 yards out in the third quarter and Thompson caught an 18-yard pass from Caleb McFarlin to put the Bears ahead 40-0.
Houston got its only points with an 87-yard, nine-play drive near the end of the fourth quarter. Knarr had a season-best 44-yard run to move the ball to the Ava 38. After five consecutive rushes, Poynter capped the series when he started right, then cut left into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown of the season.
O’Neil attributed some of his team’s offensive troubles to changes on the offensive line. Without starting tackle Ross Wells, who injured his knee in practice, the Tigers moved Seth Goff to tackle and started Andy Edwards at guard. Wells was scheduled to have a MRI on his knee Wednesday and likely won’t play Friday.
“We’re trying to find our groove with moving people around,” O’Neil said.
AVA – Thompson 5 run (kick failed), 1:14.
AVA – Akers 5 run (run failed), 6:42.
AVA – Porter 1 run (Huff run), 2:47.
AVA – Nate Bray 39 interception return (run failed), 2:32.
AVA – Smith 11 run (Porter kick), 5:46.
AVA – Thompson 18 pass from McFarlin (Porter kick), 3:16.
HOU – Poynter 10 run (run failed), 1:41.
RUSHING – Houston, Knarr 2-55, SWelch 8-36, Poynter 10-30, Wilkins 5-15, ScLogan 5-4, Cooper 1-4. Ava, Akers 5-94, Thompson 5-64, Smith 8-57, Porter 1-20, McFarlin 3-14, Tetrick 2-9, Bray 3-8, McDonald 2-8, Everett 2-5, Maggard 1-3, Huff 3-(minus 1), Bovard 1-(minus 2).
PASSING – Houston, Poynter 5-17-1 23. Ava, Huff 3-10-0 69, McFarlin 4-6-0 66.
RECEIVING – Houston, Wilkins 2-16, SWelch 2-6, ScLogan 1-1. Ava, Akers 4-63, Smith 1-39, Thompson 2-33.
Week 6 scores
Ava 40, Houston 6
Liberty 21, Mountain Grove 6
Willow Springs 21, Salem 14
Cabool 16, Thayer 14
Week 7 games
Willow Springs at Ava
Ava at Thayer
Cabool at Liberty
Salem at Mountain Grove