By Brandon Speck
HOUSTON – Houston’s juniors and seniors have been on both sides of the win-loss column. Two seasons ago, the Hilltoppers went 11-3 and three rounds deep into the playoffs. Last season, the Toppers managed to win only one game.
“We’re a family. Everybody fights for each other,” senior linebacker Damian Fields said.
Houston coach William Cook said that’s what he’s seen. The upperclassmen have used the negative to bring back the positive.
The redemption season begins Friday as Houston opens at Pontotoc.
“Their whole thing was, ‘We didn’t finish last year.’ And that was obvious. We’d play three quarters and fall off at the end, just run out of gas here and there,” Cook said. “They used that to motivate and push themselves throughout the offseason and the summer to get to where we are now.”
Cook said he could see glimpses of that motivation in spring game wins against New Albany and Shannon. He said kids have gotten bigger and stronger over the summer, coming to work at 5 a.m. – at their own request.
“It’s two different seasons, but it’s two different teams,” Cook said. “We lost a whole lot that year. We had a great senior class. Last year, it was discouraging, but the seniors and juniors kind of took that upon themselves this offseason and it’s been motivating.”
Two seasons ago, Houston gave fans the best season in school history, 11 wins for the first time and its first playoff win. The seniors have been a part of three straight playoff trips – Houston made it last season despite the one win.
The seniors and juniors were there for the 2012 run and the 2013 slide. They are bent on starting a new run.
“It was tough, but this year we’re going to go hard,” said junior defensive end J.J. Brownlee.