In the final regular season game of the 2023 campaign, the Houston High School football team fell to Liberty 35-14 last Friday in a South Central Association conference matchup at Mountain View.

The host Eagles scored on the second play of the contest on a 68-yard run by senior quarterback Carter Pruett and led 12-0 after a 7-yard touchdown run by senior Gavin Reese at the beginning of the second period.

The Tigers got on the board midway through the second quarter when senior running back Brady Brookshire capped off a sustained drive with a 2-yard scoring run, and cut the deficit to 12-7 when senior Stone Jackson kicked an extra point.

But the Eagles added 8 points with under 30 seconds to go in the half on a short TD run by senior Adrien Pendegraft and led 20-7 at the break thanks to a 2-point conversion pass.

HHS junior linebacker Bryson Alexander tackles Liberty senior Gavin Reese for a loss during the first quarter.

Houston closed the gap again in the third quarter when Brookshire had another 2-yard scoring run at the end of a drive that took more than 5 minutes. After Jackson kicked another point-after, Liberty’s advantage was 20-14.

The Tigers appeared to have the momentum when sophomore defensive back DJ Riley recorded an interception on a halfback pass play to give them possession at their own 39-yard line.

But the Eagles’ defense prevented any further scoring, while their offense added 2 more touchdowns, a 2-point conversion and an extra point in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers turned the ball over on a fumble on their first play from scrimmage in the first quarter.

“We really put ourselves in a bind turning the ball over on the first offensive play,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan. 

Linemen mix it up.

Liberty’s first TD in the fourth period came shortly after a bad snap on a punt play that gave the Eagles the ball at the Houston 27.

“We haven’t had any issues with our punt teams in years, so we weren’t used to that,” Sloan said. “We struggled with our special teams the whole night.”  

The Tigers managed to compile 159 total yards of offense, including 108 on the ground.

“We put two good drives together that resulted in touchdowns, running the ball 3-to-5 yards at a time,” Sloan said. “But we struggled containing their athletes at times.”

The Tigers (4-5, 3-4 SCA) travel to Strafford this week for a first round game of the Class 2 District 4 Tournament. The host Indians (5-4) are seeded third in the 7-team district and Houston is No. 6.

“Strafford looks a lot like Liberty,” Sloan said. “They have good athletes sitting everywhere and have a couple really big physical lineman. We’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage and take care of the football in order to have a chance. 

“They’re scoring a lot of points right now.”  

The Class 2 District 4 Tournament bracket.

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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