After trailing 7-0 less than 2 minutes into a South Central Association conference game last Friday at Willow Springs, the Houston High School football team scored 69 unanswered points on the way to a 69-15 victory.
The Tigers had their way on offense for most of the contest, racking up a season-high 549 total yards, including a monstrous 487 yards on the ground on only 25 carries.
“We definitely didn’t start out very fast,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan, “but luckily that was short-lived and we were able to get the ball rolling and had lots of people contribute in lots of ways.”
Willow Springs had some fun at the outset, as senior quarterback Aiden Stuart found sophomore wide receiver Gavin Glenn open on a slant rout and Glenn motored about 72 yards for an 82-yard scoring play. When Stuart kicked the extra point, the winless Bears found themselves with their first lead of the season.
But the Tigers quickly turned the tables and enjoyed a lengthy offensive clinic that resulted in the lopsided final score.
Houston began the run with a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes from senior quarterback Wyatt Hughes to junior wide receiver Jordan Arthur. The first was from 13 yards out and the second from 20. Senior Stone Jackson booted an extra point after the first and the score was 13-7 in favor of the Tigers with 2:40 to go in the first quarter.
Following one of many defensive stops by the Big Red D, Arthur returned a punt about 30 yards and Houston had the ball at the Bears’ 30-yard line with less than 30 seconds remaining in the period. The with 9 seconds showing on the clock, senior running back Brady Brookshire ran up the middle and continued 22 yards into the end zone.
After a pass on the ensuing 2-point conversion play fell incomplete, Houston led 19-7 going into the second quarter.
The Tigers then added another 29 points before halftime.
With 9:16 left in the second period, Hughes faked a handoff, kept the ball and ran away from traffic up the middle for a 65-yard TD. Senior running back Grayson Mitchell added a 2-point run to make the score 27-7.
With 5:29 to go, Brookshire ran through a big hole in the middle of the line and went 55 yards for a score. Mitchell tacked on another 2-point run, and it was 35-7 Houston.
With 2:16 left in the quarter, Mitchell scored on an 11-yard run and Jackson booted a point-after to make it 42-7.
After junior Layne Seago recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, he ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the resulting possession, and the Tigers led 48-7 at the break.
Getting the first possession of the second half, Houston took advantage in a hurry as Mitchell ran left and kept going for a 65-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. Jackson made the extra-point kick and the Tigers were ahead 55-7.
Sloan inserted a host of junior varsity players at that point, and they kept the pressure on the Bears’ defense and produced two more touchdowns.
After sophomore defensive back Jakob Lee intercepted a pass, freshman quarterback Kane Crawford orchestrated a drive that culminated with a 62-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third period. After another point-after kick by Jackson, Houston held a 62-7 advantage.
The Tigers’ last points came with 8:21 left in the contest on a 25-yard touchdown run by sophomore Randale Dodd and an extra point by Jackson.
Willow Springs scored with 4:13 left on an 83-yard run by freshman Asher Smith and a 2-point conversion run by freshman Aiden Messex.
Mitchell ran the ball 10 times for 183 yards in the game, while Brookshire had 4 carries for 104 yards, Hughes ran twice for 70 yards and sophomore Eli Newsome had 2 carries for 67 yards. Hughes threw only 5 passes, but completed 4 for 62 yards, including the two TDs to Arthur.
As Houston’s defense greatly limited the Bears’ offensive production, senior linebacker Keaton Goetz led the charge by seemingly being in on every play. The 5-8, 200-pound Goetz officially recorded 11 tackles, including 8 solo and 3 for losses.
“Keaton made some big plays for us and had a really nice game,” Sloan said.
This week, the Tigers host Mountain Grove in a rare afternoon game that kicks off at 1 p.m. Friday in Tiger Stadium. The two teams will enter the contest with identical records of 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the SCA.
Sloan figures the Tigers will have to hinder the Panthers’ running game.
“That’s definitely their strength,” Sloan said, “so if we get them to throwing the ball, that’s a good thing. And then offensively, we’re going to have to put some drives together and take care of the football.”
The two teams played a Friday afternoon game last season at Mountain Grove.
“Everybody is excited,” Sloan said. “It’s an opportunity to play in front of our student body, and it was a great atmosphere over there last year. We expect the same this year, and we expect our black and red to dominate the colors.
“I think everybody will be hyped up and ready to go.”