HOUSTON – It was a tough week for the Hilltoppers but they pulled it all together Friday night to beat division foe Caledonia, 13-0.
Houston (1-6, 1-0) used a strong defense to hold the Confederates (2-4, 0-1) scoreless and to also put points on the board. All of the game’s scoring came in the second half.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of those guys,” said Houston coach William Cook. “We had a sickness hit the team and we didn’t practice most of the week. We basically came out Friday night, put on the pads and went after it.”
The Topper defense was without their leading tackler Avery Seals who may be out for the season with a knee injury. But the Goons came to play and got the job done.
Running back Damien Fields led all tacklers on defense with 13 stops and two sacks. Denver McQuary followed with nine tackles, Grady Nabors with eight and Devin Murphy with 7 tackles and a sack. McQuary also had two interceptions.
“I thought we played very well defensively,” said Cook. “If we can stop them from scoring our offense can score points. I would have liked to have seen us score more points, but we only had one fumble and it’s obvious we are getting better.”
Cook said skill players on offense are beginning to settle into their posts. He said the offensive line allowed quarterback Garrison Howell time to throw and blocked for the ball carriers.
“We move the ball on offense and didn’t have the turnovers that have hurt us this year,” said Cook. “I thought we came out after halftime and showed what we could do.”
The first half saw both team trade field position and neither the Hilltoppers nor the Confederates could find their groove.
Caledonia relied heavily on senior quarterback Ben Marchbanks to run the ball, but he never seemed to find the time to find this favorite receivers.
“I told our guys before the game this one would take everyone giving everything,” said Caledonia coach Andrew Crowell. “We apparently did do that.”
Crowell said while the Confederate defense played well, the offense couldn’t get things going. He credited Houston’s down linebackers with shutting down the passing game.
“We’ve got a lot of ballgames still to play and we’ve got to accomplish some things,” said Crowell. “This is a tough division. Houston knows that, too.”
Houston came out of the halftime locker room and scored their first touchdown of the second half this year on their first drive after intermission.
The Toppers started at the 24 and used four running plays to advance the ball to Caledonia’s 44. Fields then found a big up straight up the middle and raced 44-yards for the score. The PAT failed, but Houston led 6-0 at the 9:29 mark in the third quarter.
Houston’s special teams then worked their magic and blocked and returned a field goal for the score.
The Confederates pushed 65-yards to the Houston 5-yard line and looked ready to score, but decide to kick a field goal on a fourth-and-five.
Topper Nathan Smith blocked the kick and then scooped up the ball and thrilled the crowd with a 95-yard return.
McQuary then stopped the Confederates with his two interceptions. The Goons finished up the game stopping Caledonia on fourth-and-10 on the Hilltopper 17 yard-line.
Houston finished the game with 209 yards on offense. Caledonia had 243.
Fields carried 12 times for 95 yards. Zach White rushed 11 times for 41 yards and J.J. Jones had 32 yards on seven carries. Howell ran three times for 36 yards.
“We finished the game,” said Cook. “This win was important for us and we feel like we are on top of the world tonight. But this is the tough part of the schedule. We got to build on this win.”
The Hilltoppers travel to Kosciusko (2-5, 0-1) to face the Whippets Friday night. Kosciusko lost their first division match-up to Noxubee County, 9-7.
More game photos of Friday’s contest between Houston and Caledonia — and the band’s halftime show — can be viewed by clicking the BUY PHOTOS button at the top of this browser.