Toppers kick into extra gear

By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal

HOUSTON – A familiar scene was about to play out Friday night in the second half of Houston’s game with Calhoun City. But then the Hilltoppers quickly showed this year could present a different story.
Clinging to a 17-14 lead with just six minutes left in the game, Houston exploded for 20 unanswered points to close out a 37-14 victory. The win moved Houston to 2-0 on the year and delivered the program’s first win over Calhoun City since 1981.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to teach and get across to our kids,” said Houston head coach Billy Cook. “We are trying to work and finish games. In the past we haven’t finished games. We told our kids Calhoun City was going to make a run in the second half. We told them we had to push back and make a play, and that’s what we did.”
Houston QB Sharone Wright gave the Hilltoppers a comfortable edge with his third touchdown of the night and a 23-14 lead with 6:07 left in the contest. Wright finished the night with 16 carries for 123 yards and three scores, pacing the Hilltoppers’ 251-yard rushing attack.
“It was all about making history in this game,” said Wright. “We hadn’t beaten Calhoun City since ’81. I just wanted to come out and play as hard as I could on every play. We all did.”
The defense did the rest for Houston, producing a fumble return and interception return for scores to close out the victory.
Leaning on defense
“Defense is going to be our strength this year,” said Cook. “We leaned on them tonight and turned the game around for us in the fourth quarter.”
Led by MSU commitment Chris Jones and Kenrick Max-well, the Houston defensive line stifled the Wildcats. Calhoun City had just 20 yards of offense in the first half and trailed 10-0, including a 47-yard field goal by Houston’s Emmitt Dendy.
“I think we saw what happens when a senior team plays a young team,” said Calhoun City head coach Perry Liles. “We did manage to come back and make it close but then had those turnovers. You can’t have those.”
The Wildcats produced their lone points of the night in the third quarter thanks to Lavarious Varnado, who had a 74-yard touchdown run and a 67-yard scoring toss to Chakel Gates.