The lead changed hands multiple times and the final margin was only a single point, but the Houston High School football team came up short in a South Central Association conference road game Friday night and fell 27-26 in the annual Battle of Texas County on John Mark Hale Field in Mitch Carmack Stadium at Cabool.

The Tigers led 18-7 at halftime, but the host Bulldogs scored 20 unanswered points in the second half and were ahead 27-18 late in the fourth quarter.

Houston made one last surge when sophomore quarterback Wyatt Hughes tossed a short pass to senior running back Bailey Hurst and Hurst ran down the right sideline for a 68-yard touchdown with 1:23 left in the contest. After Hughes connected with junior running back Zac Williams for a 2-point conversion pass, the gap was down to 1 point.

But HHS head coach Eric Sloan and Company ran out of timeouts and then ran out of time, as Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Trey Atkins took a knee twice with the home crowd voicing its approval.

A trio of Tigers team up to tackle Cabool running back Braxton Davis during the first quarter of an SCA game Friday night at Cabool. Leading the way is linebacker Harold Lassiter (56), while defensive backs Zach Fuwell (24) and Austin Goetz (11) lend a hand. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

The Tigers got off to a fast start, scoring on the game’s first play from scrimmage when Hughes threw to sophomore wide receiver John Kimrey in the right flat and Kimrey lateraled the ball to a sprinting senior Nathaniel Garnica, who took it all the way down the right sideline for a 57-yard touchdown. After Kimrey’s point-after kick was blocked, Houston led 6-0 only 13 seconds into the contest.

After the two defenses exchanged blows with the offensive units for several possessions, Cabool snatched the lead midway through the second period on a 21-yard TD pass from Atkins to sophomore running back Tyler Fleetwood, who made a remarkable over-the-head catch with his back to the ball. When senior Eddie Swisloski kicked the extra point, the Bulldogs were up 7-6.

The Tigers then scored two more touchdowns before halftime on runs by Hurst.

As Houston’s Dmitri Zveniatchovskii (7) puts a block on Cabool linebacker Evan Counts, Tiger running back Bailey Hurst looks for space during the second quarter of an SCA game Friday night at Cabool. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

The first came on a 20-yard dash with 3:34 to go, and the second from a yard out with 24 seconds left. The latter TD followed a 68-yard gain when Hughes passed to Williams and Williams scampered down the right sideline before being brought down just shy of the end zone.

After the two teams went back-and-forth for most of the third quarter, Cabool struck again with 12 seconds left in the period and trailed 18-14 after an 8-yard touchdown pass from Atkins to senior tight end Maverick Smith, and another point-after kick by Swisloski.

The Bulldogs regained the lead at 21-18 with 8:10 left in the final period when senior running back Braxton Davis ran for a 45-yard touchdown on a draw play and Swisloski kicked another extra point.

HHS sophomore lineman Trenton Shelton (74) signals the beginning of the fourth quarter Friday night in Mitch Carmack Stadium at Cabool. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Cabool then got what proved to be the game-winning score after the Houston offense gave up the ball on a disastrous – and controversial – fumble call late in the contest.

After taking possession at the Tigers’ 40-yard line, the Bulldogs took advantage and moved the ball quickly on the ground, finishing the short but decisive drive with a 1-yard TD run by Braxton. 

Houston retaliated moments later with the long passing play, but it was too late and Cabool secured the victory by the slimmest of margins. 

Next up for the Tigers (2-2, 1-1 SCA) is a road game Friday (Sept. 24) at Thayer.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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