AVA –– The Houston Tigers hardly resemble the same competitive team from earlier this season.
“I think it all goes back to our emotional state,” HHS football coach Billy O’Neil said following the Tigers’ 35-0 loss Friday at Ava.
“When we came out against Salem (in the season opener), we weren’t afraid of anything coming at us. It didn’t seem like it was the same team at Ava.”
Houston offered little resistance as Ava accumulated points in a hurry. The Bears (3-3, 2-2 South Central Association) scored on three of their first five plays en route to a 27-0 first-quarter lead.
Ava pulled its starters with a comfortable 35-0 halftime lead and running mercy clock.
It was the second straight forgettable performance for the Tigers (2-4, 1-3 SCA). The previous week, Houston gave up six first-half touchdowns in a 50-7 loss to Thayer. The issue that game was turnovers. The problem with the Ava performance, O’Neil said, was a lack of competitive spirit.
“There was no emotion coming into the game,” he said. “They’re flat. I can’t put my finger on it yet.”
The resolution, O’Neil said, will be on the team.
“That’s something that has to come from the boys,” he said. “It has to come from within –– to play the game and not being concerned with who you are playing.”
Ava did its damage on the ground with 358 yards on 30 attempts. Kyle Clinkingbeard led the way with 13 carries for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Ben Loge added a pair of rushing scores.
Facing a large deficit and with its double wing struggling –– the Tigers had a season-low 77 rushing yards –– Houston unveiled a new wrinkle with five wide receivers and quarterback Weston Walker in shotgun formation.
The result was 133 passing yards from Walker –– more than his total from the first five games combined –– and life from a stagnate offense that had one first down in the first half.
O’Neil said his game plan was to run the ball. When that didn’t work, he went with Plan B.
“You might see more of that, because it worked fairly well,” he said. “We have the athletes to run that offense.”
Clinkingbeard started Ava’s offensive assault with a 44-yard rushing score on the third play from scrimmage.
After Ava held the Tigers to one yard on three plays, Clingkingbeard took a pitch around the left end and sprinted 69 yards for another score.
Another HHS punt led to another Bears score –– this time a 46-yard quarterback keeper by Loge on the first play of the series to make it 21-0 just 5 minutes, 32 seconds into the game.
“The kids recognized the keys. We just didn’t make the plays,” O’Neil said. “If I graded our reading the plays coming at us, I’d give us a B-plus. Now grading how we reacted to the play once is started, that’s probably a D-minus or F.
“We knew what play was coming at us, we just didn’t execute.”
Clinkingbeard had a 31-yard touchdown run on Ava’s fourth series. Loge scampered in from nine yards away with 1:04 left in the first half to put the Bears in front 35-0.
O’Neil said it was his job to put the players in the right positions on the field. He said the responsibility falls on them to be motivated to make the play.
“The players have to get excited to play,” O’Neil said. “We can’t play for them. We have to emotionally get excited about playing football.”
AVA –– Clinkingbeard 44 run (Loge kick), 10:41.
AVA –– Clinkingbeard 69 run (Loge kick), 9:23.
AVA –– Loge 46 run (Loge kick), 7:28.
AVA –– Clinkingbeard 31 run (kick failed), 4:06.
AVA –– Loge 9 run (Clinkingbeard run), 1:04.
RUSHING –– Houston, Alkire 5-28, WWalker 7-21, Miller 8-19, Bell 3-5. Ava, Clinkingbeard 13-226, Loge 3-57, Akers 6-20, Vinson 4-13, Miles 2-9, Overcast 1-4, Bray 2-3.
PASSING –– Houston, WWalker 9-20-2 133. Ava, Loge 2-3-0 21.
RECEIVING –– Houston, Bell 3-41, Coulter 2-28, Alkire 1-26, Keeney 1-16, TySmith 1-12, Miller 1-10. Ava, Gastineau 2-21.