Seniors on the 2022 HHS football team. From left, Austin Goetz, Anthony Carroll, Dakota James, Casey Merckling, Zac Williams and Harold Lassiter.

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Players in the 2022 Houston High School football program.

While the Houston High School football team’s results in the 2022 season remain to be seen, one thing is for sure: There are lots of bodies in uniform.

In fact, the program’s roster is currently sitting at 53 players.

“I’m excited about this year’s team,” said head coach Eric Sloan, who is entering his eighth season at the helm of HHS football. “We haven’t had this many guys since I’ve been here. Attitudes have been great and the kids are excited.”

HHS football head coach Eric Sloan talks to senior Casey Merckling (53) and freshman Carston Parmenter during a summer camp session in July. Sloan is entering his eighth season in the position.

The Tigers’ roster also features many players with significant varsity experience, including several upperclassmen who started last year.

“I think our biggest strength is that we are a year bigger and stronger,” Sloan said. “We played a lot of young guys last year, so they’re used to the Friday night lights. We return most of our roster, so we aren’t seeing the ‘deer in the headlights’ look from the kids.”

While overall numbers are up, most of Houston’s players aren’t all that battle-tested so injuries could be an issue. Sloan said the team’s weakness will likely be similar to that of squads at most small schools: Depth.

“If we have to sub, we will get young quickly,” he said. “We have 20-plus freshmen right now, so if we can keep them from playing on Friday nights I believe it will be to our advantage.”  

Houston finished the 2021 season at 2-7. The Tigers got off to a good start and were at 2-1 following a historic home victory over Salem the ended a 40-game, 40-year losing streak to their Dent County namesakes.

But in large part due to a slew of injuries, Houston lost six straight games after that, including contests at Cabool and Willow Springs in which the Tigers were ahead at halftime. The up-and-down season concluded with Houston falling 41-34 in overtime in a thrilling, back-and-forth district tournament game at Forsyth.

Junior Wyatt Hughes returns as the Tigers’ starting quarterback this year. Other starters at offensive skilled positions will include seniors Anthony Carroll, Dakota James and Zac Williams, and sophomore Jordan Arthur. Sloan figures senior Austin Goetz and junior Grayson Mitchell will also factor in.

Junior Wyatt Hughes will handle quarterback duties for Houston again this year.

Many of the same players will also bolster the defense overseen by defensive coordinator Jake Brookshire (who is in his fifth year with Houston), while seniors Casey Merckling and Harold Lassiter, juniors Brady Brookshire and Keaton Goetz and sophomore Maleki Morgan should also help deter opposing offenses. 

Sloan said several experienced players have shown good leadership tendencies. 

“Our senior class has been good so far taking on the leadership role,” he said. “Casey has done a great job so far and Harold just does his thing and is vocal on defense. Anthony is doing a good job leading defensively as well.” 

The Football Tigers participated in a preseason jamboree last Friday at Mountain Grove (also including Thayer and Willow Springs) and begin the campaign this Friday with a road game in St. Charles against the Class 3 Orchard Farm Eagles, who went 5-6 last season.

“We’re going to have to stay healthy,” Sloan said. “We have made great strides, and it’s been a fun summer camp. 

“The kids’ attitudes are positive and they are willing to work!”

2022 HHS FOOTBALL ROSTER

Number, name, position, grade

1. Jordan Arthur, WR/DB, 10

2. DJ Riley, QB/DB, 9

3. Jack Sawyer, WR/DB, 9

5. Zac Williams, RB/LB, 12

6. Zac Sawyer, WR/DB, 11            

8. Bryson Alexander, RB/LB, 10

9. Riley Reed, QB/DB, 9

10. Grayson Mitchell, RB/LB, 11

11. Austin Goetz, RB/DB, 12

12. Jakob Lee, WR/DB, 9

13. Layne Seago, RB/DL, 10

14. Jakeb Mohr, WR/DB, 9

15. Wyatt Hughes, QB/DB, 11             

18. Austin Keller, WR/DB, 9

19. Hayden Brannan, WR/DB, 10

20. Brayden Richardson, WR/DB, 10                                 

21. Kayden Crawford, TE/LB, 11

22. Anthony Carroll, RB/LB, 12

23. Owen Byrd, RB/LB, 10

24. Randale Dodd, TE/LB, 9

25. Maleki Morgan, FB/LB, 10

27. Cohen Brannan, WR/DB, 9

29. Caden Guerra, WR/DB, 9

30. Javon Ross, RB/DB, 10

31. Elijah Nowlin, WR/LB, 9                

32. Eli Newsome, RB/DB, 9                 

33. Dakota James, RB/LB, 12       

39. Gabe Storrie, WR/DB, 10

40. Dakoata Hofstetter, TE/LB, 10

44. Ethan Branum, FB/LB, 9

45. Kaden Beasley, WR/DB, 9

50. Keaton Goetz, OL/LB, 11                     

52. Ethan Chase, OL/LB, 11

53. Casey Merckling, OL/DL, 12

54. Chris Swallow, OL/DL, 10

55. Brady Brookshire, OL/DL, 11

56. Harold Lassiter, OL/LB, 12

57. Mason Dodson, OL/LB, 9

62. Gage Walker, OL/DL, 10

63. Carston Parmenter, OL/DL, 9

64. Rocky Dailing, OL/DL, 9

65. Regan Shimp, OL/DL, 10

66. Toby Head, OL/DL, 9

67. Will Revelle, OL/DL, 9            

70. Devin Shelton, OL/DL, 10

71. Hayden Riggs, OL/DL, 10

72. John Jordan, OL/DL, 10

73. Logan Dixon, OL/DL, 10

74. Trenton Shelton, OL/DL, 11          

76. Colin Jackson, OL/DL, 12

77. Gavin Altman, OL/DL, 9

78. Ethan Buckner, OL/DL, 10

79. Elliot Greiner, OL/DL, 9

SCHEDULE

Aug. 26: Orchard Farm, 7 p.m.

Sept. 2: Fayette, 7 p.m.

Sept. 9: Salem, 7 p.m.

Sept. 16: Cabool, 7 p.m. (Homecoming)

Sept. 24: Thayer, 1 p.m.

Sept 30: Ava, 7 p.m.

Oct. 7: Willow springs, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14: Mountain Grove, 7 p.m.

Oct. 21: Liberty, 7 p.m. (Senior Night)

Oct. 28: District Playoffs, TBA

*Home games in bold

HHS football head coach Eric Sloan addresses the Tigers during a summer camp session in Tiger Stadium in July.
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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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