Coach Eric Sloan and the HHS football team beating Mountain Grove for the first time in 16 years was among the most memorable moments from 2017. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

TIGERS FINALLY BEAT GROVE

Houston High School football wiped away 16 years of futility in early October. On Senior Night, the Tigers were aggressive defensively and physical offensively as they defeated Mountain Grove 24-14 –– the first time for the program since 2001.

HHS put the finishing touches on the night with a seven-minute, game-clinching drive that finalized the victory. Senior Gavin Alston sealed the win when he took a jet sweep 40 yards down the sideline and into the end zone with 20 seconds remaining.

The score set off a wild celebration.

“I’m going to remember this for a very long time,” HHS coach Eric Sloan said. “I think a lot of people are going to remember this for a long time.”

DIXON RUSHES FOR 303 YARDS

Paydon Dixon started the year as the Houston football team’s quarterback. And he missed the previous week with a knee injury. That’s what made his Week 7 performance against Willow Springs so remarkable.

Dixon amassed 303 rushing yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead Houston to a 40-29 road victory at Willow Springs.

Dixon, who had 103 rushing yards coming into the game, had touchdown runs of 83, 12 and 35 yards and also added a two-point conversion run.

“I’m not an English teacher or have journalism words,” Sloan said. “It’s just impressive.”

CASPER WINS 100 AT DISTRICTS

HHS track

HHS senior Abby Casper sprints past the competition to win the 100 meters at districts.

Senior Abby Casper had previously twice qualified for state in the 100 meters. But she had failed to win the district title in the event.

That changed in 2017.

Casper, who battled a knee injury much of her final season, sped past the field in 12.57 seconds to win the 100 at the Class 3 District 5 championship in Owensville.

“This is the meet I was most looking forward to for Abby,” HHS track coach Tori Richardson said. “She has had many obstacles to overcome this season, and she has done just that.”

Casper, missed a third consecutive trip to state with a false start –– leading to a disqualification –– the next week in sectionals.

ANOTHER TITLE APPEARANCE

The HHS girls’ basketball team was unable to defend its district crown. Still, the Lady Tigers made another championship game performance.

Houston advanced to its fourth straight district title game in 2017. Their quest to win back-to-back crowns for the first time ever fell short with a 51-33 loss to Licking.

Senior Jaydin Ramsey hit three 3-pointers and scored 14 points as the lone HHS player in double figures. Junior forward Kaitlyn Root added nine points.

The loss marked the conclusion of the careers of the Lady Tigers’ five seniors: Ramsey, Casper, Stephani Crewse, Alyssa Hayes and Emily Shea.

SOFTBALL ON THE MOVE

Taylor Chipps

HHS senior Taylor Chipps celebrates one of her team-leading four home runs in 2016.

After twice considering the move, the Houston school board pulled the trigger in August to move the high school softball program to the spring. The change, which begins with the 2018-’19 school year, allows female athletes to play volleyball in the fall and softball in the spring.

The transition became necessary this time, board members said, to keep the district part of the South Central Association conference. When Mountain View-Liberty moved its program to the spring this summer, Houston was left without a conference for its 2017 season.

MORE FEATS

•The HHS baseball team swiped 18 bases during a 15-6 victory against Summersville. The total was the most in school history and tied for eighth-most in state history.

OFL

Members of the Houston eighth-grade football team that won the Blue Division of the Ozarks Football League are, front row from left: Isaac Choate, Ethan Clifton, Austin Bressie, Trevor Mitchell, Sonny Crawford, Blaike Webster, Rene Lathrom and Bailey Hurst. Back row: Daniel Hutcheson, Ty Franklin, Anderson Morris, Denver Culley, Chris Cichon, Brayden Martin and Korbyn Tune.

•The Houston eighth-grade football team went 5-0 in the Ozarks Football League, highlighted by a 38-0 win against Waynesville in the championship game.

•Eighth-grader Daniel Hutcheson ran the 100 meters in 12.09 seconds and the 200 in 24.66 at the South Central Association conference meet in Willow Springs to win both events. Both times were new Houston Middle School records.

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