HHS football

AVA –– A poster will likely be hung in the Big Red Building following the Houston football team’s latest game.

But not to celebrate a win.

Instead, coach Eric Sloan said it will serve as a motivational reminder.

Ava 70, Houston 22.

“It needs to hurt,” Sloan said following the Tigers’ lopsided road loss Friday night. “If it doesn’t, we better take good look at the guy in the mirror. If it doesn’t sting giving up 70, there is something wrong internally.”

The Tigers hardly resembled the team that had taken positive strides forward in recent weeks with their young players. Houston surrendered 522 yards of total offense –– 496 on the ground –– and both kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns.

Ava’s 70 points were the most Houston has surrendered in more than a decade.

“I’m almost speechless. We didn’t show up to play,” Sloan said. “We told the kids afterwards, ‘If you can’t look at that scoreboard and think about it the next time you think about taking a day off in the weight room or not showing up, then you don’t have a heart and don’t deserve to win.’ We’ve got to grow up quick.”

The issues began early against the Bears.

Ava sophomore Caleb Johnson returned the game’s opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of seven first-half touchdowns as the Bears (4-2, 2-2 South Central Association) built a commanding 48-14 advantage.

The Bears scored three more touchdowns after a halftime break for homecoming activities.

Houston (1-5, 1-3 SCA) has been a homecoming opponent many times in recent years.

“We crowned another queen tonight,” Sloan said. “I’m sick and tired of being on the princess tour for the three years I’ve been here. There has to be a little pride in what we do. It’s time to quit being the doormat.”

HHS junior Gavin Alston led the Tigers with 11 carries for a career-best 96 yards –– highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. Chance Hunter had a rushing score and kickoff return touchdown.

Senior Connor Clifton caught four passes for 92 yards.

Kelly McDonald had 14 carried for 200 yards and three touchdowns for the Bears. Johnson had a 76 yard touchdown run along with his two special teams scores.

Ava averaged 13.1 yards per play from scrimmage.

“We have guys there and we should have tackles for losses. We don’t bring our hands. We don’t bring our hands. We don’t run our feet,” Sloan said. “One big play they had, we had about five guys not pursuing. They were standing around and hopefully eating some popcorn enjoying the scenery. When you give that kind of effort, you’re going to take a spanking like that.”

Behind 21-0 early in the second, the Tigers used a big play to set up their first score. Sophomore quarterback Paydon Dixon hit Clifton with a short slant, and he sprinted 61 yards to the Ava 16-yard line. Two plays later, Hunter muscled into the end zone for his seventh rushing score of the season. He also added the two-point conversion run to make it 21-8.

Hunter provided more points midway through the quarter when he returned a kick 96 yards –– bouncing off two tackles and diving into the end zone –– for a touchdown.

“He showed a lot of heart,” Sloan said. “I thought he was going to get caught, but he fought a couple guys off and continued to run.”

Unfortunately for Houston, the positive play was sandwiched between two Ava scores. Johnson returned a punt 94 yards before Hunter’s score and two plays after it, McDonald scored from 38 yards away.

The three scores in a span on 54 seconds gave Ava a 42-14 lead. It grew on Johnson’s 76-yard scamper with 1 minute, 57 seconds left in the half.

“I was hoping we were starting to mature a little bit and taking steps in the positive direction,” Sloan said. “For every positive we’ve been making, I think we took two steps back. It’s effort. It’s not being disciplined.”

Alston provided one final highlight for the Tigers midway through the fourth quarter. With two pulling linemen opening a hole on the left side, he sprinted down the sideline for an 80-yard score –– Houston’s longest play from scrimmage in 2016.

“He showed flashes of what he is capable of. He brings some speed and quickness,” Sloan said. “He’s a guy that we’d like to call his number a little bit more. My confidence is building in him. I wouldn’t hesitate to hand him the football right now.”


Houston 0 14 0 8 –– 22

Ava 21 27 8 14 –– 70

First Quarter

AVA –– Johnson 87 kickoff return (McDonald pass from Johnson), 11:45.

AVA –– McDonald 14 run (kick failed), 2:14.

AVA –– Copeland 23 run (Johnson kick), 0:06.

Second Quarter

HOU –– Hunter 16 run (Hunter run), 8:08.

AVA –– Maggard 52 run (Johnson kick), 7:28.

AVA –– Johnson 94 punt return (Johnson kick), 5:55.

HOU –– Hunter 96 kickoff return (kick failed), 5:39.

AVA –– McDonald 38 run (Johnson kick), 5:01.

AVA –– Johnson 76 run (kick failed), 1:57.

Third Quarter

AVA –– Maggard 26 pass from Johnson (Johnson kick), 9:42.

AVA –– McDonald 78 run (Maggard pass from Johnson), 5:54.

Fourth Quarter

HOU –– Alston 80 run (Clayton pass from Clifton), 6:44.

AVA –– Moran 36 run (Johnson kick), 2:27.



First downs 10 10

Total yards 277 522

Rushes-yards 37-178 38-496

Passing 99 26

Punt returns 0 99

Kickoff returns 197 140

Comp-att-int 6-15-1 1-2-0

Sacked-yards lost 3-26 0-0

Punts 5-34.6 2-30.0

Fumbles-lost 2-2 0-0

Penalties-yards 6-55 11-85



RUSHING –– Houston, Alston 11-96, Hunter 12-68, Clayton 2-7, Richardson 1-5, Dixon 11-2. Ava, McDonald 14-200, Johnson 2-94, Maggard 4-52, Moran 3-50, Copeland 5-41, Myers 7-27, Rucker 2-21, Wilson 1-7.

PASSING –– Houston, Dixon 5-14-1 88, Burchett 1-1-0 11. Ava, Johnson 1-2-0 26.

RECEIVING –– Houston, Clifton 4-92, Sawyer 1-11, Alston 1-(minus 4). Ava, Maggard 1-26.

“It needs to hurt. If it doesn’t, we better take good look at the guy in the mirror. If it doesn’t sting giving up 70, there is something wrong internally.”


Week 6 scores

Ava 70, Houston 22

Salem 33, Willow Springs 24

Thayer 36, Cabool 14

Liberty 33, Mountain Grove 20

Week 7 games

Willow Springs at Houston

Salem at Mountain Grove

Ava at Thayer

Cabool at Liberty

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