By Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
Houston enters the MHSAA playoffs for the sixth time in school history, still searching for a postseason win. The Hilltoppers will have to get through a team that made it to last season’s North state finals, Amory, to grab that first playoff win on Friday.
“It’s been a very big motivation all season long for our seniors,” Houston coach William Cook said. “This game is something they’ve been looking towards and talking about all year long.”
Defensively, Houston is led by end Chris Jones, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound Mississippi State commit, and tackle Deontray Smith, who have combined for 58 and 53 tackles respectively.
“Jones is one of the top five defensive players in the state, and their noseguard (Smith) is phenomenal too,” Amory coach Trent Hammond said. “On offense, their quarterback and fullback (Sharone Wright and Brandon Townsend) do enough to make you pay.”
The Panthers have sported a balanced offensive attack this season – averaging an even 228 yards per game in the air and on the ground.
Senior WR Dario Robinson leads Amory in rushing with 856 yards and nine scores on 93 carries. Robinson and Devin McIntosh are the top two targets for sophomore QB Jon David Poss, who’s completed 65 percent of his passes this season.
“Amory is a tough matchup for anyone. We know they’re very athletic at the skill positions, and their defense is aggressive,” Cook said. “Everyone thinks they mainly pass the ball, but they’re very balanced on offense this season.”
Both teams are 9-2. Amory’s losses came at the hands of division winners Itawamba AHS and Aberdeen, while Houston fell to division rivals Noxubee County and Louisville.
“Our division is tough, and teams like Noxubee and Louisville are the ones we’re trying to get up to the level of,” Cook said. “Playing teams like that prepares us for a game like Friday.”
Amory comes off a 27-14 win over Pontotoc, backed by Robinson’s three TDs.
“We’re going to have to execute our game plan better this week,” Hammond said. “Houston’s a tough football team, and everyone has this pegged as the toughest first-round matchup in 4A.”