By JOEL McNEECE
The Calhoun City Wildcats got a career night from sophomore RB Avery Hill and strong play from their defense when it counted to earn a 21-15 win over visiting Houston Friday night.
The Wildcats were playing without any of their starting linebackers due to injuries. Quarterback J.R. Jennings didn’t start, but did play most of the game after suffering a shoulder sprain last week in the loss at Coffeeville.
“We are playing a little injured right now,” said Perry Liles, who earned his first win as head coach of the Wildcats. “But we are not going to make excuses because a solid team doesn’t make excuses.”
It was in the last seconds of the first quarter when the Wildcats put the first points on the board. A 12-play, 71-yard march ended with a 17-yard pass from Jennings to fullback Raheem Roberson. Roberson added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
On Houston’s first play following the kickoff, Wildcat Aaron Thompson intercepted Hilltopper QB Shawn Wright’s pass at the ‘City 39-yard line. Four straight runs by Hill, who finished with 149 yards on 22 carries, pushed the Wildcats deep into ‘Topper territory. From there Jennings connected with WR Demarius Howard on a 28-yard touchdown. A missed extra point left the Wildcats up 13-0 midway through the second quarter.
A strong kickoff return by Devoris Ivy set Houston up at midfield and the offense took advantage of it. Six straight running plays, the last a 5-yard run by Reggie Buchanan, put Houston in the end zone. Buchanan converted on a 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 13-8 at the half.
The Wildcats got those points back early in the second half. They marched 62 yards on the opening possession with Hill accounting for the touchdown on a 12-yard run. He also scored on the 2-point try for a 21-8 lead.
Forty three and 10-yard runs by Houston’s Charles Heard put them back in scoring possesion on the ensuing possession. Will Kirby then broke free for a 22-yard touchdown. A successful extra point by Emmitt Dendy cut the Wildcat lead to 21-15.
The defense took over from there forcing several punts until Houston’s Devoris Ivy picked off jennings and raced 55 yards to the Wildcats 20-yard line. Ivy appeared to have a clear lane to the end zone, but Jennings used the angle to just trip him up with a final dive to save the touchdown. It proved to be a game saver as the Wildcat defense stepped up and pushed the Hilltoppers backwards from there, ultimately forcing a punt with less than four minutes to play.
The ‘Cats then turned to Hill and sophomore FB Tevin Hall, who finished with 76 yards on 13 carries. They drove forward through the Houston defensive line for three consecutive first downs to allow the Wildcats to run out the clock and earn the victory.
Calhoun City, 1-1, will travel to Water Valley, 0-2, next week.