Uphill for Toppers after historic season

William Cook and his Houston team have a short turnaround between Monday’s first day of practice and the season opener on Aug. 23, just like everyone else. (C. Todd Sherman)

William Cook and his Houston team have a short turnaround
between Monday’s first day of practice and
the season opener on Aug. 23, just like everyone else. (C. Todd Sherman)

BY BRANDON SPECK
DAILY JOURNAL

Houston is fresh off its best football season in school history. It started with three two-a-days to start fall practice a year ago.

Monday is the first official day of practice for Mississippi High School Activities Association schools, but no two-a-days for Houston this season. With less time to practice before the Toppers open the regular season at home against Pontotoc on Aug. 23, they will get in a few hours Monday morning, then start regular practice schedule after the first day of school Tuesday.

“We always want more time, but everybody’s got the same deal,” second-year Houston coach William Cook said.

The scales are even for practice time, but Class 4A Houston’s roster weighs a lot less than it did 12 months ago, prior to a record 11-win season that saw three playoff wins in its first-ever playoff appearance.

Jones gone
A big reason is because former Toppers defensive end Chris Jones is now at Mississippi State, the five-star wreaking havoc there already, just as he did in his final two prep seasons.

“You can’t replace him. We’ve got some young kids that rotated on the other side of him last year,” Cook said. “We’ll balance out and go from there.”

Jones isn’t the only one to leave a gaping hole. Quarterback Sharone Wright threw every pass and carried the ball nearly 50 percent of the 571 times it was carried. Four players had more than 100 tackles. Only linebacker Shaquille Spears (106) returns. Only 58 of 166 tackles for loss return. Reliable kicker Emmitt Dendy is gone. Seven players from last season are now playing college football.

Cook said the spring was promising. And while long baseball playoff runs keeps some out of spring football work, it worked out well for the Toppers.

“We were able to get a lot of other guys some reps,” Cook said. “We just want to pick up where we left off and get rolling.”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com