It was Homecoming Night last Friday in Tiger Stadium, but you might say the Houston High School Football Tigers’ guests crashed the party.

No doubt the home team’s fans didn’t have as much to cheer about as they would have liked, as Ava beat Houston 42-7 in the South Central Association conference contest.

The visiting Bears (No. 4 in the latest Class 2 state rankings) benefited from a roster laden with upperclassmen (including 11 seniors), while the Tigers had only three seniors and six juniors available.

“Our youth really showed at times,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan. “Our young kids played OK, but we gave up a lot of size on the line and we played another freshman on the line who has one week of experience on the line after making the transition from running back.” 

Houston senior Bailey Hurst returns a kickoff during a downpour in the second quarter of the Tigers’ SCA game against Ava last Friday night. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Ava scored five rushing touchdowns and got another through the air. The Bears got on the board first with a 9-yard TD run by freshman fullback Hunter Adams at the 6:46 mark of the first quarter and then added another 20 points in the second period to hold a commanding 27-0 lead at halftime.

The Tigers got their lone TD with 10:06 left in the third quarter after senior linebacker Bailey Hurst recovered a fumble and on the next play, junior running back Dakota James broke free and took the ball 46 yards for a score.

Sophomore John Kimrey booted the extra point and Houston trailed 27-7 at that point.

The Bears then scored two more touchdowns before the end of the third quarter to produce the final score. Both teams let their junior varsity players get some Friday night experience in the fourth period.

The slippery ball gets away from HHS quarterback Wyatt Hughes as he tries to pass during the first quarter last Friday night. Hughes snatched it out of the air and tried took off on foot. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

Houston managed a season-low 108 total yards in the contest, while Ava totaled 413. The Bears’ option offense racked up yardage all night, as Adams finished with a game-high 148 yards on 16 carries and senior quarterback Zach Richards ran 12 times for 118 yards.

Houston senior linebacker Dmitri Zveniatchovskii did a tremendous amount of work for the Big Red D in the game, recording 13 solo tackles and an assist. Zveniatchovskii is the Tigers’ leading tackler through 6 games with 56 solo tackles, 11 assists and 3 tackles-for-losses.

“Dmitri does a great job on defense,” Sloan said. “He’s a ball hawk and flies to the football. Rarely does he miss a tackle; he has been a wrestler, so he understands leverage and body control and that is pretty obvious when he gets hands on the ball carrier.” 

HHS junior linebacker Anthony Carroll (22) prepares to bring down Ava senior running back Blayne Mendel for a loss during the first quarter. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

The Tigers (2-4, 1-3 SCA) travel to Willow Springs this week, where the host Bears (1-5, 0-4 SCA) will be hoping to score their first conference win of the season.

“Willow Springs is tough to know about,” Sloan said. “They have had several kids quarantined off and on, so we haven’t been able to see film with everyone available.  They lost to Cabool by 1 or 2 just like we did, so it has the making to be a great game.

“With only three seniors and six juniors available, we can get the younger kids up the learning curve a little faster now that they have a couple weeks under their belt.” 

Ava junior Jeremiah Blakely (15) kicks an extra point past HHS defenders Anthony Carroll (22) and Wyatt Hughes. DOUG DAVISON | HOUSTON HERALD

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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