By Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
AMORY – Turnovers were the story of the first-round 4A playoff matchup between Houston and Amory, and the Hilltoppers made the Panthers pay with a key interception in the fourth quarter for a 26-24 win.
Amory (9-3) forced eight fumbles, but Denver McQuary’s pick of Panthers QB Jon David Poss in the fourth quarter that led to Houston’s final score was the difference maker.
“The interceptions were what turned the momentum tonight,” said Houston coach William Cook, whose team got the first playoff win in school history. “The one at the end was huge, and their offense never seemed to get back on track after the one before halftime.”
Houston (10-2) got on the board first with a 6-yard run from Brandon Townsend, but Tanner Poole’s 30-yard field goal brought the Panthers within 3 after the Hilltoppers’ second fumble of the night.
Another fumble on Houston’s next drive allowed Amory to take over at the Houston 40. Dario Robinson’s 23-yard run set up a 20-yard scoring pass from Jon David Poss to Abaris Woodrick. Robinson added an 8-yard scoring run five minutes before halftime for a 17-6 lead, but Houston trimmed it to 17-13 when Chris Thorton picked off a Poss pass and returned it for a score.
Both defenses held strong to open the third quarter, but Amory used special teams to get back on the board. The Panthers blocked a punt to give their offense the ball at the Houston 12, and Poss found Devin McIntosh for a score two plays later.
Houston responded on the next drive with Townsend’s 6-yard TD run, and Hilltoppers QB Sharone Wright punched the ball in from six yards out to take the final lead.
“Our seniors made the plays tonight. This was what they wanted and what they’ve worked for all year long,” Cook said.
Despite being held to 13 yards passing in the first half, Wright finished the game 6 of 10 passing for 157 yards. Townsend led Houston with 77 yards on seven carries.
Poss threw a season-high three picks and was held to 116 yards passing while Robinson added 122 yards on the ground.
“This was just one of those games where we got outplayed tonight,” Amory coach Trent Hammond said. “Hats off to them because they’re a great team, and I think this is a good, hard-fought game for us to go out on.”