In their final regular season game of 2021, the Houston High School Football Tigers fell 43-14 to Liberty in a South Central Association conference game last Friday night in Mountain View.

Houston fell into an 18-0 hole in the first quarter, as the host Eagles scored three touchdowns, including two through the air and one on the ground. Liberty’s second passing TD occurred with 30 seconds left in the period when freshman quarterback Gavin Reese tossed the ball to his right and junior wide receiver back Drew Ripko gathered it in and scampered 62 yards into the end zone.

The Tigers got on the board early in the second quarter when senior Bailey Hurst finished a 64-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. After sophomore John Kimrey booted the extra point, Houston had cut the deficit to 18-7.

HHS sophomore linebacker Wyatt Hughes wraps up the ankles of Liberty senior running back Tanner Ripko during the second quarter of an SCA game last Friday night in Mountain View. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

But Liberty struck again and led 24-7 after Ripko took a hand-off and ran for a 51-yard touchdown at the 3:20 mark of the period.

The Eagles extended their advantage to 30-7 when Ripko scored again on a 6-yard end-around running play with 3:11 left in the third quarter, and took a commanding 37-7 lead with 9:43 to go in the fourth period when Ripko scored from 4 yards out after catching a shovel pass from Reese.

Houston got another 7 points with 6:53 remaining when Hurst took a snap in a wildcat formation and ran 8 yards for a score, followed by another point-after kick.

Liberty finished the scoring in the contest with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Reese to senior wide receiver Noah Jester with 5:26 showing on the clock.

“I thought the kids played hard,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan. “We gave up some long plays defensively after missing tackles.” 

The Tigers’ offense was able to move the ball during several possessions, but committed 6 turnovers that prevented much scoring. At defensive back, Jester snatched a pair of interceptions.

Houston sophomore Gracyn Mitchell is tackled by Liberty freshman Quentin Reese during the fourth quarter. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

“We moved the ball and then would turn it over,” Sloan said.  “Their DB made a couple really nice plays intercepting a couple passes, taking it away from our receiver.”  

This week, the Tigers (2-6, 1-5 SCA) travel to Forsyth for a Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 2 District 3 Tournament game. Houston is seeded seventh in the 7-team bracket, while the host Panthers are No. 2.

Forsyth’s roster features 11 seniors and six juniors.

“We’ve played with three healthy seniors and six juniors for most of the season, so it won’t be anything new,” Sloan said. “We’re used to being the youngest team on the field every night. We just have to minimize mistakes and play our tails off.”

Other games in the district set for this Friday include No. 6 Willow Springs at No. 3 Liberty and No. 5 Springfield Catholic at No. 4 Strafford. Top-seeded Ava gets a first round bye and will host the winner of the 4-5 game in the district semifinals on Nov. 5.

To view a photo gallery from the Tigers’ game at Liberty (with the option to purchase photos), click here.

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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