By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – October of 2010 was the last time the Houlka Wildcats earned a football victory on the field.
Until Friday, as the Wildcats grabbed a two-touchdown lead in the first half, then held on for dear life to edge the Tupelo Christian Eagles 28-26 in a Region 1-1A contest.
“I think R. J. Johnson’s interception was a key point in the game,” said an elated Houlka head coach Rob Allen said. “Then we turned that around and hit a 60-yard fade.
“That was the biggest part of the game.”
Certainly a big swing in the game was late in the first half with TCPS holding a 7-6 lead.
Houlka (1-4, 1-2) went on a 13-play, 58-yard drive, that was capped by a Johnson 6-yard run for a touchdown that gave the Wildcats a 12-7 lead with 38 seconds left in the half.
On the first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Johnson intercepted an Eagles pass. Houlka immediately backed that up with a 60-yard scoring pass as Larry Jones ran smoothly under a Wyatt Easterley pass with 14 seconds left before intermission.
The third quarter saw both teams score, the first an 8-yard run by Zachory Tybor for TCPS. Houlka responded on its first play from scrimmage as Johnson raced down the left sideline for a 46-yard score, putting the Wildcats up 28-13.
TCPS, which was searching for its first win of the season, put forth a determined fourth quarter.
The Eagles scored with 8 minutes, 40 seconds remaining on a 4-yard Tybor run. After the teams traded possessions, TCPS made its run at tying the contest.
Starting on their own 29-yard line, the Eagles marched down the field in eight plays, with a key 31-yard reception by Charlie Forrest. Quarterback Tyler Beard capped the drive with a 13-yard scoring pass with 1:33 remaining to pull his team within two points.
But on the conversion, the Houlka defense stuffed a run up the middle, preserving the lead.
TCPS scored on its first possession of the contest on a 11-play drive, capped by a 4-yard run by Tybor. Houlka then answered with an 11-play march, with Easterley scoring on a 5-yard run.
Tybor rushed for 211 yards on 30 carries for TCPS. Johnson chipped in 122 yards on the ground.