In the annual high school football Battle of Texas County, Cabool triumphed over Houston 24-20 last Friday night in Mitch Carmack Stadium in Cabool.
The host Bulldogs scored the only points in the first half of the South Central Association matchup, taking a 6-0 lead with 2:16 left in the first quarter on a 91-yard touchdown run up the middle by sophomore running back Braxton Davis. Cabool then went up 12-0 on a 2-yard run by Davis midway through the second quarter.
Houston got on the board at the 7:59 mark of a wild third quarter. After several penalties backed the Bulldogs up to their own 9-yard line, a bad snap went though the legs of junior quarterback Will Johnson and after a scrum in the end zone, the ball was picked up for a touchdown by Tiger senior defensive back Jaekan Moss.
After the extra-point attempt by junior Trevor Mitchell was blocked, Houston had cut the lead to 12-6.
But on Cabool’s first play of the following possession, Davis scampered 52 yards down the left side to the Tiger 13-yard line. The Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0 SCA) then scored on a broken play when Johnson scrambled out of trouble and found senior wide receiver Adrien Ortega in the left corner of the end zone. After a failed 2-point try, Cabool was up by 12 again at 18-6 with 6:47 left in the third quarter.
But Houston (2-2, 0-2 SCA) quickly answered and scored on a 46-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior Chance Mitchell. Senior quarterback Dakota Burchett tacked on a 2-point conversion run and the Tigers had sliced the lead to 18-14.
But on the ensuing kickoff, the home crowd in “The Pit” went wild as Ortega took the ball 96 yards to the house. After another failed 2-point try, Cabool had a double-digit lead again at 24-14 at the 5:21 mark of the period.
Houston wasn’t done yet in the quarter, though. With 3:53 left, Chance Mitchell scored again, this time on a 43-yard run up the right side. The Tigers couldn’t convert on a 2-point try and trailed by what turned out to be the final score at 24-20.
At a crucial juncture of the fourth quarter, Houston went for it on fourth-and-one at the Cabool 49-yard line, but the Bulldogs defense held in a pile up at the line of scrimmage.
“It felt kind of normal when we got going in the third quarter,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan. “But they just had an answer every time.”
Chance Mitchell finished with 13 carries for 140 yards in the contest, while sophomore Bailey Hurst ran 9 times for 28 yards. Burchett completed 5-of-14 passes for 34 yards, with senior Connor Wilson catching 3 for 19 yards.
Senior linebacker Devin Wallander led Houston tacklers with 12 (2 for losses), while Chance Mitchell had 8 (3 for losses), senior Robbie Mortensen had 7 and lineman Trevor Mitchell and sophomore defensive back Rene Lathrom had 5 apiece.
As was the case in the previous week’s loss to Salem, several big plays contributed to the Tigers’ undoing, not the least of which were Ortega’s kickoff return and Davis’ 91-yard run.
“It was the story of the night,” Sloan said. “On one of their scoring drives, they actually moved the ball. But for the most part it was just home run plays.
“And on that touchdown pass, we almost sack the kid, then he drops the ball, picks it up and scrambles, and finds an open guy. That was what kind of night it was.”
The Tigers faced more adversity in the contest with regard to injuries, and Sloan again had to invent new combinations on the field.
Houston was again without senior lineman Chris Cichon, who is expected to return to the field this week. The Tigers suffered another blow early in the third quarter when Hurst – a running back and linebacker – went down at midfield before being helped off the field by coaches. Hurst was taken to the hospital for treatment and was diagnosed with a concussion and herniated disc in his back.
Next up for the Tigers is a road game Friday at Thayer. The undefeated Bobcats (4-0, 2-0 SCA) blanked Salem 36-0 last Friday and are ranked second among class 1 teams in Missouri.
The injury factor could be potentially devastating for Houston in the contest. Sloan said Trevor Mitchell (knee) will definitely be out, and others are questionable, including senior Tristan Leier (knee) and freshman Anthony Carroll (ribs). Even Burchett has been limping due to an ankle issue.
“We’ve been cursed – I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Sloan said. “I’ve had teams that were beat up, but there was depth. We’re beat up and we don’t have depth.”
Houston had five freshmen on the field when the kickoff was returned for a score. A total of six freshmen played for the Tigers in the game.
“Our back-up guys are playing other positions, so we have guys shuffled everywhere,” Sloan said. “It’s just dumb. It may get pretty creative trying to figure out the right pieces to the puzzle. We’ll see how some doctors’ appointments go and check availability.
“I just wish I knew what it was like to play with a full deck of cards this year.”