By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Under Donny Rogers, the Houston High football team hopes to make history this postseason.
“Houston has never won a playoff game,” said Rogers, who’s in his first season as the Hilltoppers coach. “It’s only the sixth time we’ve ever been in the playoffs.
“Our seniors got a lot at stake and we really want to make history. We expect our kids to play their hearts out.”
Tonight, the Hilltoppers (6-5) will play at fifth-ranked New Albany (8-3) in a MHSAA Class 4A first-round playoff game. It’s the Hilltoppers’ first playoff contest since 2006, when they got bounced in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs by Independence, 28-14.
Rogers, a longtime Alabama head man who spent last season as Kosciusko’s offensive line coach, said he doesn’t know if his club is better than the Bulldogs, but you can expect his players to give the Bulldogs a game.
“New Albany is as well-coached a team as we’ll play against,” Rogers said. “They are going to be physical and they’re big.”
The same could be said about the Hilltoppers.
“I do see them as athletic as us,” said Bulldogs head coach Ron Price. “From seeing them on film, they got a defensive end that’s 6-5 and an offensive lineman that is 6-6. They’re very athletic and they played in a very athletic division this year.
“It’s a very tough division. They played Noxubee County and Louisville and played them tough. Everybody knows how athletic those teams are, and they hung right in there.
“I know they’re very well-coached and very athletic.”
To qualify for the playoffs, the Hilltoppers defeated Caledonia, Leake Central and Kosciusko by a combined 109-10 in Division 4-4A games. They shut out Leake Central and Kosciusko in back-to-back weeks.
The Hilltoppers’ two division setbacks came at the hands of the state’s seventh-ranked team, Louisville, a 23-20 loss on Sept. 30, and to No. 11 Noxubee County, 21-0 on Oct. 14.
Rogers said spending a season at Kosciusko helped him understand what his Hilltoppers would be facing this season in their division. However, at Houston, Rogers noted that he has different types of personnel and offensive schemes than Kosciusko’s.
You could also say that New Albany, a playoff opponent of Kosciusko’s last season, has a different flavor in 2011 than it did in 2010.
And that’s why it’s hard for both the Bulldogs and the Hilltoppers to gain anything from watching film of New Albany’s 28-0 second-round playoff win over Kosciusko last season, added Rogers.
While the Bulldogs offense may have been somewhat conservative in the early going of 2011 – “really relying on the running game until the passing game came along,” said Price – that doesn’t seem to be the case entering the postseason.
Quarterback Spencer Day is coming off his best game – a 9 of 13 performance for 226 yards, four TDs and no interceptions against Lewisburg.
“We hope we’re now hitting our highest point of production,” Price said of his team’s offense.