The Houston coaching staff believes the Tigers are flashing signs of their potential.
On the scoreboard it was a 32-6 loss Friday night to visiting Thayer. But a deeper look at the numbers reveals what has coaches Eric Sloan and Vince McCrosky excited.
More first downs than the opponent.
Young and improving offensive line.
Multiple underclassmen on defense.
Breakout game for sophomore quarterback Pay don Dixon.
“It’s very encouraging when you see all the young kids,” Sloan said, “and to know if we cut down on some of the small things we’re doing to ourselves, we’re going to be all right.”
Ultimately, it’s the small things that have doomed the Tigers.
Houston (1-4, 1-2 South Central Association) improved its penalty problems of recent weeks against Thayer. But untimely turnovers — four lost fumbles leading to 16 points — proved to be the culprit this week.
“We keep talking about ourselves,” Sloan said. “We feel like we’re beating ourselves.”
Still, there were many positives.
The HHS defense held Thayer (3-2, 2-1 SCA) to three-and-outs on its first two possessions, forced a season-high five punts and allowed a season-low 240 yards.
The offense — although somewhat limited in play calling by heavy rains — had two rushers flirt with 100 yards. Senior Chance Hunter had 23 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown, and Dixon had 14 rushes for a career-best 96 yards.
Two sacks are all that kept Dixon under the century mark.
“They’re starting to key on Chance, and Dixon pulls the ball out of there and shows you what he is capable of doing,” Sloan said.
McCrosky, the team’s offensive coordinator, stuck around for a postseason interview with Sloan to praise his players.
“I think what you saw a little bit tonight is how this offense can be run,” McCrosky said. “I’m very proud of Paydon and our kids.”
Thayer leaned heavily on tailback Clay Williams to beat Houston for the 11th straight year. The senior tailback carried the ball on 36 of the Bobcats’ 49 plays en route to 240 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Hunter led the Houston defense with eight tackles. Dixon and Josh Hurst, who had a tackle for loss and caused a fumble, both had seven tackles.
The game was the only SCA contest played Friday night as three other matchups were moved to Saturday afternoon due to heavy rains. There were no lightning delays like the previous week, but the precipitation fell throughout the night.
“It was awful,” Sloan said. “Nobody had any dry threads on them. The kids not in the game were just freezing to death over there, myself included.”
Thayer scored twice in the second quarter — a 9-yard run by Williams and 4-yard quarterback keeper by Zyman Langley for a 16-0 halftime advantage.
Williams had another rushing score that gave Thayer a 24-point lead in the third.
Houston, which drove to the Thayer 20 on its second possession of the game before stalling, got its first points with an 85-yard drive at the end of the third. Dixon and Hunter carried the ball on eight of the 10 plays before Hunter scored from 19 yards away on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Thayer recovered an onside kick attempt and scored for the fourth and final time when Williams powered in to the end zone from 17 yards away with 9 minutes, 52 seconds remaining.