Special teams breakdowns burn Houston Toppers

By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal

MACON – Two weeks ago the Houston offense committed six turnovers that spelled defeat against Division 4-4A rival Louisville.
On Friday night against region frontrunner Noxubee County, it was special teams blunders that led to the Hilltoppers’ second loss of the season.
Noxubee County converted a trio of Houston mistakes on special teams into 20 points en route to a 40-13 victory. The Hilltoppers fell to 7-2 on the season, while the Tigers remained unbeaten at 9-0 and 3-0 in Division 4-4A.
“You have to be clicking in every phase to beat a team like (Noxubee County),” said Houston head coach Billy Cook. “That is why they are one of the top teams in the state. Our kids played hard, but we just had too many errors in the kicking game.”
Despite a solid defensive effort in the first half, the Hilltoppers still found themselves trailing 20-6 at halftime. The Tigers scored on the opening drive of the game but managed just 45 yards of offense the rest of the half.
However, a pair of bad snaps on Houston punt attempts led to 14 points for Noxubee County, and that was the difference in the opening half. The Tigers only needed drives of 20 yards and 10 yards to take advantage of Houston’s special teams mishaps.
The Hilltoppers did manage to get on the board late in the first half, which has been a rarity of late for Noxubee County opponents. Houston QB Sharone Wright lofted a perfect pass to Q Lewis late in the opening half that resulted in a 43-yard touchdown.
The touchdown was the first allowed by the Tigers’ defense since Aug. 31 and snapped their streak of five straight games without allowing a touchdown.
Wright capped off the scoring with a TD run late in the fourth quarter, but Houston still managed just 151 yards of offense.