For the second straight week, the Houston High School football team defeated an opponent by a margin of at least 40 points.

This time the victim was Fayette, as the Tigers trounced the host Falcons 46-6 in a game played on Davis Field at Central Methodist University in Fayette (due to issues caused by lightning at Fayette’s home field).

Similarly to Week 1, Houston relied on a prolific running game, stout defense and a sparkling overall team performance in the contest. The Tigers’ offense generated five touchdowns via the run and one through the air, while the Big Red D continuously stifled Fayette’s senior-laden offense and forced the Falcons to turn the ball over on downs a whopping five times.

“It was just a fun night,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan “We played great on offense, defense and special teams, and we didn’t allow any big plays. The kids were excited about it, and we just showed up for four quarters.”

The Tigers scored all the points they would need with 7:34 left in the first quarter when senior Dakota James ran for a 4-yard touchdown and senior Anthony Carroll added a 2-point conversion run.

Houston’s defense lines up for a play last Friday at Fayette.

Then with under a minute to go in the period, Houston increased the advantage to 16-0 on a 3-yard TD run by junior quarterback Wyatt Hughes and another 2-point scamper by Carroll.

Midway through the second quarter, Hughes scored again on a 24-yard run down the left side of the field, and the Tigers went ahead 24-0 after James ran for 2 points.

The Falcons got on the board with 30 seconds remaining in the first half when senior quarterback Ben Wells faked a handoff and ran for a touchdown on a fourth-and-2 play at the Houston 31-yard line. But Wells’ pass on a 2-point conversion attempt fell incomplete, and Fayette wouldn’t score again.

The Tigers continued their offensive onslaught in the second half, and ran the ball deep into Falcons territory late in the third period, earning a first-and-goal situation after Hughes danced his way for 32 yards before being stopped at the on the Fayette 5-yard line. Houston then went on top 30-6 when Carroll ran for another touchdown, breaking two tackles on his way to the score.

After one of their many defensive stands, the Tigers got the ball back with less than a minute to go in the period. Then with 10:54 left in the fourth quarter, Hughes hit freshman wide receiver Jordan Arthur with a perfect 28-yard pass the left side of the end zone. Hughes and Arthur followed up by connecting on a 2-point conversion pass, and the margin stood at 38-6.

With 8:29 left in the game, Houston struck again and led 46-6 when Carroll broke tackles again and found open space for a 41-yard touchdown run and then tacked on another 2-point run.

With 4:38 to go, the Big Red D rose up again, and sophomore linebacker Bryson Alexander recovered a fumble to give the Tigers one last possession at the Fayette 45-yard line.

Behind the blocking of teammates Casey Merckling (52), Keaton Goetz (50), Harold Lassiter (56) and others, HHS senior Dakota James runs the ball last Friday at Fayette.

Sloan used the opportunity to insert the junior varsity offense. The contest concluded with the Falcons in possession of the ball when the final horn sounded.

The Tigers’ offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage from beginning to end. For the second straight week, three Tigers ran for at least 100 yards, as Hughes kept the ball 15 times and gained a career-high 121 yards, while James ran 21 times for 117 yards and Carroll had 11 carries for 100 yards.

“Our offensive line dominated,” Sloan said. “They’re creating massive holes for our backs to run through, and that makes their job a whole lot easier. They’re having a lot of fun with that.”

The Tigers’ defensive line frequently smothered Fayette ball carriers behind or near the line of scrimmage. Leading the way were junior guard Keaton Goetz with a career-high 9 tackles (including 7 solo and 2 for losses) and senior nose guard Casey Merckling with 8 tackles (including 6 solo and 3 for losses).

“Those guys are both playing at a really high level right now,” Sloan said. “It’s fun to see it.”

The emergence of the Tigers’ passing game made the job much more difficult on the Falcons’ defense. Hughes completed 6-of-7 tosses for 101 yards (with one touchdown and no interceptions) and finished with a career-high 222 total yards.

“I think that’s a credit to the run game,” Sloan said. “When we’re running the ball with success, that really opens things up for the passing game.”

Fayette was within 1 point of playing for a state championship last year.

“We got off the bus ready to play,” Sloan said, “and we were able to do that.”

Next up, Houston (2-0) begins South Central Association conference play Friday night at Salem.

The Dent County Tigers (0-2) ended up with their third-string quarterback on the field last week.

“It’s kind of nice to see someone else dealing with injuries after what we’ve gone through the last couple of years,” Sloan said. “We’re pretty healthy, for the most part, but we know we’re an injury to one of a few guys away from looking a whole lot different.”

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

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