Noxubee County has been top of mind for most people discussing which team will emerge from the north but after what Houston's defense did to Bruce, the conversation is deeper.
Did Bruce receiver Jay Johnson know how good the Houston defense was?
"Not really. Our biggest threat was (Deontray Smith) and Chris Jones," Johnson said. "And they did what they usually do."
Houston was 5-0 and had already gotten some attention but the Hilltoppers held the Daily Journal's top-ranked Trojans to a touchdown. Everyone knows about Mississippi State-committed defensive end Chris Jones, who swam through defenders for 4.5 sacks Friday like he was in a lap pool. But Houston boasts more than Jones. Smith entered Friday as the leading tackler for the No. 3 Class 3A/4A school. Kody Kimbrough had his share of big hits Friday.
Friday night marked Jones' one-year anniversary in a Houston jersey. This year, the Hilltoppers have given up nine points per game and its offense with quarterback Sharone Wright and Brandon Townsend, a sophomore, is gaining 270 yards on the ground and scoring 34 a game.
The offense went as planned against an athletic Bruce line.
"It was all defense (Friday) and we pounded the ball on offense," Houston coach William Cook said, "especially between the tackles because we knew they were so athletic with their ends."
It's easy to forget about Lafayette since its winning streak is over and quarterback Jeremy Liggins is gone but the Commodores have won the last two 4A titles and are 5-1.
Itawamaba looked dangerous without Ashton Shumpert and two games back, the 4-star running back has 354 yards and five touchdowns.
Amory hasn't slowed down much after a North title run.
Houston is already a motivated team, a team bent on winning the school's first-ever playoff game. As if the Toppers needed any extra push to start the season 6-0, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was watching from the sidelines Friday. Mullen knows Jones, but Friday was a chance for others to seek his attention too.
"With Dan Mullen coming to see the game, it really gets you motivated," Townsend said.
Click here for photo gallery from Houston vs. Bruce game.