Homecoming couldn’t have begun any better.
A queen was crowned, the game ball was delivered by a helicopter and Houston scored on its first two drives for a quick lead.
It also couldn’t have ended much worse.
Willow Springs scored 40 of the next 46 points to erase the deficit and cruise to a 40-18 win Friday night at Tiger Stadium.
“We got of to a great start and then things slowed down and they started having some success,” Tigers coach Eric Sloan said. “It’s the same story. We just struggled and couldn’t correct it.”
The Bears (4-3, 2-3 South Central Association) burnt the HHS defense with their counter running plays. They had 366 rushing yards on 53 attempts.
Ben Wake led the way with 13 carries for 133 yards and touchdown runs of 39, 3, 37 and 49 yards. Quarterback Bryce Duddridge threw for 144 yards and ran for 91.
Chance Hunter led Houston (1-6, 1-4 SCA) with 19 carries for 149 yards and for the second straight week returned a kickoff for a score. Sophomore quarterback Paydon Dixon had a pair of touchdown passes.
Shortly after Air Evac landed at midfield with the ceremonial game ball, the Tigers covered 65 yards on four plays for a quick lead. Dixon hit fullback Michael Clayton out of the backfield for a 29-yard score just 1 minute, 44 seconds into the contest.
After forcing a punt, Houston scored again at the 4:18 mark when Dixon found Connor Clifton in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard score.
But two touchdown runs from Wake gave the Bears a 14-12 halftime advantage.
“They kept running counter, and we couldn’t stop it. It was the same story all night,” Sloan said. “We try to hand tackle and arm tackle. That doesn’t work in the third grade, let alone the varsity level.”
After Dakota McDaniel made a leaping catch and score for the Bears, Hunter returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a score to make it 21-18.
But Willow Springs finished the game with 19 unanswered points to spoil Houston’s 2016 homecoming.
“We’re just not consistent,” Sloan said. “We do some really good things, then we do some boneheaded things. If it will ever come together, we could be pretty good. When we’re hitting on all cylinders, we’re a pretty good ball club.”