Scoring early and often, the Houston High School football team cruised to a 48-0 victory last Friday night at Cuba.
The Tigers led 42-0 at halftime and coasted in the second half as the “turbo clock” rule was implemented and reserves played most of the downs. The host Wildcats were without several key players and were led by an interim head coach due to fallout from a hazing incident the previous week.
“We played a lot of guys and a lot of guys contributed,” said HHS head coach Eric Sloan. “And we got out of there healthy, so it was a good night.”
Houston’s first half scoring parade began with 9:50 left in the first quarter when running back Chance Mitchell busted through traffic for a 5-yard touchdown run. Junior Trevor Mitchell then connected on a point-after kick to record the Tigers’ first extra point of the season, and Houston led 7-0.
At the 4:54 mark of the first stanza, senior quarterback Dakota Burchett hit sophomore tight end Korbyn Tune for an 18-yard touchdown pass, and with 3:26 left in the period, Burchett and senior Tristan Leier hooked up for a 61-yard touchdown pass. Point-after kicks by Trevor Mitchell on both scores put Houston ahead 21-0.
With 1:25 still remaining in the first quarter, Cuba muffed a punt snap and the Tigers gained possession at the Wildcats’ 13 yard line. Ten seconds later, Chance Mitchell scored on an 8-yard TD run. The extra point kick was wide left, but Houston led 27-0.
Only 20 seconds into the second quarter, Houston scored again on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Burchett to senior wide receiver Connor Wilson. After a 2-point conversion run by Chance Mitchell, the Tigers (2-0) held a commanding 35-0 lead.
Houston struck again before the break when sophomore Bailey Hurst took a handoff from Chance Mitchell on a reverse play and ran 44 yards into the end zone. Trevor Mitchell converted another extra point kick and the Tigers went into halftime leading 42-0.
The second half went by in a hurry with the clock running continuously.
But before the game was over, Houston’s reserves made their mark, with junior Ty Franklin running the offense at quarterback and freshman running back Anthony Carroll racking up yardage. The Tiger youngsters added to the lead when sophomore running back P.J. Mister scored a touchdown on a 14-yard run with 2:42 left in the fourth quarter (the extra point kick failed).
Houston racked up 296 yards on the ground, led by Chance Mitchell with seven carries for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Hurst ran the ball seven times for 84 yards and a TD, while Leier had 53 yards on five carries, Carroll had 44 yards on six tries, Mister ran twice for 23 yards and a score, and Burchett kept the ball three times and ran for 19 yards.
On offense, Chance Mitchell splits his time being a lineman and a running back about 50-50. Sloan said that wouldn’t be the case if the Tigers had more depth.
“He’s doing such a great job running,” he said. “I wish we could afford to keep him in the backfield a lot more, but we’re just so short-handed up front.”
Burchett also completed 4-of-13 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Many incompletions were due to balls on target being dropped.
“We had some success throwing the ball, but we only complete four passes,” Sloan said. “I think all but two of the incomplete passes hit guys in their hands and they just dropped them. Dakota could have had a huge night passing if we would have helped him out and caught the ball.”
Defensively, Houston had a host of players get involved against the Wildcats’ depleted offense.
From his spot at linebacker, Carroll led Tiger tacklers with seven (one for a loss), while also hauling in an interception (with a 32-yard return). Also at linebacker, Chance Mitchell recorded six tackles, while lineman Trevor Mitchell and senior defensive back Robbie Mortenson each had five and senior linebacker Devin Wallander had four.
Houston wasn’t at full strength either, with starting linemen Chris Cichon and Isaac Choate sidelined with injuries and Dontae Pritchett out for the season. Sloan expects Cichon, a senior, to be back on the field this week when the Tigers host Salem on homecoming night, but Choate is questionable.
Salem (2-0) has beaten Houston 38 times in a row.
Sloan said the streak is a “mental challenge” for Houston, and the Tigers don’t have a monkey on their back, but a gorilla.
“Salem’s going to be ready again, and they seem to firing on all cylinders,” Sloan said. “For us to win, we’re going to have to take care of the football and not allow them to have big plays. They’re going to play a tempo game and eat clock, so it’s key for us to get their offense off the field after third down and get ours back on the field and move the chains.
“And we’re going to have to catch the football. We can’t be dropping them like we did last week.”