Scoring three touchdowns in the first half proved to be enough for the Houston High School football team Friday night, as the Tigers won at St. James, 18-6.
After Houston won the coin toss and deferred, the host Tigers got the ball first but couldn’t make any headway against their guests’ defense and were forced to punt. The visiting Tigers started at their own 29-yard line and produced a sustained drive that led to the game’s first score and set the stage for them to control the game from there.
After a couple of runs, a facemark penalty and two offside penalties, Houston quickly moved into St. James territory at the 37-yard line. A 21-yard gain on a pass from senior quarterback Ty Franklin to junior Korbyn Tune moved the ball to the 13, and after a run with lots of second-effort by senior Chris Cichon, the Tigers were knocking at the door at the 4.
Junior Bailey Hurst then bulled his way over the right side and into the end zone, and after senior Trevor Mitchell’s point-after kick hit the left upright and fell away Houston had a 6-0 lead with 4:59 to go in the first quarter.
On St. James’ ensuing possession, Houston’s defense rose up and stopped the home team again with a stand that included tackles for losses by Hurst (at linebacker) and junior lineman Alex Swallow. Then early in the second quarter, the Houston D came through one more time after St. James recovered a fumble at the Houston 29-yard line, as a bunch of Tigers ganged up to stop sophomore running back Cody Wilfong on a fourth-and-2 play at the 10.
Houston’s offense responded a short time later with a 27-yard run by Hurst on a broken play, with Franklin pitching the ball to him while falling backward to the ground. Moments later, Franklin broke tackles for a nice gain on a keeper to the St. James 4-yard line, and Cichon scored on a 2-yard run. After failed 2-point run, the visiting Tigers led 12-0 with 3:48 left in the second quarter.
But Houston wasn’t done and struck again before the first half was over.
This time, Franklin (at defensive back) recorded his first interception of the season on a halfback pass play and returned the ball to the St. James 15-yard line. After a penalty moved it back to the 25, Houston scored a few plays later on a 1-yard run by Franklin.
The Tigers’ 2-point conversion run failed, but they led 18-0 with 19 seconds remaining in the half.
St. James successfully executed an onside kick to open the second half, but came up empty again. Midway through the third period, senior defensive end Trent Satterfield blocked a punt to give the host Tigers the ball at the Houston 8-yard line, but the Houston defense stood tall yet again, and St. James came away with nothing after sophomore Harold Lassiter blocked a field goal.
Late in the third quarter, Houston turned the ball over on a fumble again to give St. James possession at the visiting Tigers’ 31-yard line. This time the host Tigers capitalized and scored on a 14-yard pass from senior quarterback Preston Schmidt to senior wide receiver Derek Skaggs.
After an incomplete pass on the 2-point conversion attempt, Houston’s lead was 18-6 with 10:49 to go in the game.
Before the final horn sounded, Houston’s defense produced two more big plays, as Hurst intercepted a pass and Franklin recovered a fumble. The contest ended with the offense lining up in victory formation and Franklin taking a knee.
“I thought we played OK,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan. “We struggled on the offensive line at times; a lot of it was communication issues between them and I think we can get that fixed.”
Houston turned the ball over on fumbles twice for the second straight week.
“Obviously, we fumbled the ball too much,” Sloan said. “That’s a problem that we have to get fixed.”
Houston finished with 336 total yards, with the ground game accounting for 261 yards on 50 carries, while Franklin completed 6-of-9 passes for 75 yards.
Hurst broke the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time, going for 105 yards on 19 tries. Franklin ran 11 times for 82 yards, while Zach Fuwell had 13 carries for a career-high 61 yards.
“Bailey had another good game,” Sloan said. “It was good to see him get over the 100-yard mark. As a team we averaged over 5 yards a carry again, and that’s a good night.”
Houston’s defense limited St. James to only 147 total yards, as the host Tigers managed only 12 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Sophomore linebacker Anthony Carroll led Houston in tackling with 6 (including 4 for losses), while linemen Mitchell and Swallow each recorded 5.
“Defensively we played a really good game,” Sloan said. “We have several guys playing well on that side of the ball, and again I felt like we owned the line of scrimmage.”
Houston (2-0) travels Friday to Salem for a third consecutive road game against another namesake team. Salem has defeated Houston 39 straight times in an incredible streak that spans the same number of years.
“We need to take care of us and not worry about all the other noise,” Sloan said. “The kids understand it’s been a while since we beat them. Not many people in this town who have played in that game have come out on the winning side.”
Sloan said the Tiger D will hope to contain Salem’s offensive backfield duo of junior quarterback Garrett Connell and junior running back Devin Atchison.
“Salem presents a lot of challenges with their athletes,” Sloan said. “The quarterback and running back are two of the best athletes in the conference – they were both All-Conference kids last year and their stats speak loudly. The QB will hurt you with his legs and his arm and their running back is one of the fastest guys in the conference.
“It will obviously be our biggest challenge so far.”