By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
LOUISVILLE – Houston committed six turnovers in its regular season loss to Louisville.
In Friday’s rematch – in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs – a rash of Houston miscues again proved to be the difference.
After leading for most of the first half, Houston had three straight turnovers that led to 20 points for Louisville late in the first half. The Hilltoppers never recovered and saw their season end with a 46-21 loss.
The Wildcats (10-4) advanced to next week’s Class 4A North state title game against Noxubee County.
“We were doing good and then just had that two-minute stretch that killed us,” said Houston head coach Billy Cook. “We lost our senior center, a three-year starter, before the Amory game (in the opening round) and that really came back to bite us. But you still have to execute, block and make plays.”
It was actually Houston’s defense that gave the Hilltoppers (11-3) an early lead.
Mississippi State commit Chris Jones leaped into the air and picked off Wyatt Roberts’ pass and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession.
Louisville needed only two plays, however, to cut the lead to 7-6 and the score remained that way until Houston self-destructed late in the first half. It all started with a Louisville pick-six with 3:34 left in the first half to give the Wildcats their first lead.
Two turnovers quickly followed, and when it was all said and done, Louisville turned a trio of Houston turnovers into 20 points in just two minutes of action.
“The avalanche just started going downhill,” Cook said. “It started going bad and we just couldn’t stop it.
“The game tonight was bad, but the year as a whole was great. We’ve started to point this program in the right direction and we want to keep it going that way.”
Louisville’s Roberts passed for 189 yards with two touchdowns and also rushed for two more scores. Houston was led by sophomore fullback Brandon Townsend’s 95 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries. Townsend also reeled in five receptions for 48 yards for Houston, which ended the night with 246 total yards.
Naturally, seeing the season end produced a tough scene for the Houston seniors. But they also exited the field with pride and knowing they helped the program reach new heights this year.
“It hurts now but we did some great things,” said Jones, who had 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and his interception. “We won two playoff games and before this year Houston had never won a playoff game.”