Courtesy ItemOnline.com / Tom Waddill / DJ Shafer
The Hornets slugged it out with Willis for one half Friday. But when the Wildkats finally landed a couple of potent uppercuts, then followed those with painful body blows, the Hornets crumbled in a 37-14 loss to their neighbors from the south in the regular-season finale at Bowers Stadium.
Trailing 14-7 on a miraculous Willie Mays-like touchdown catch by Robert Johnson on fourth-and-10 late in the second quarter, the Hornets were again in the game at the half. Like last week when Huntsville was behind by three at the break only to lose 34-14 to Kingwood Park, the Hornets made too many mistakes Friday to stay close to a Willis team that was hunting part of a District 18-4A championship.
Huntsville senior Cameron Shirley lost the handle on a lateral from quarterback Kent Albert on the second play of the third quarter. Defensive back Erin Reece scooped up the ball and raced 43 yards untouched to put the Wildkats on top 21-7.
“That was just poor execution on our part,” said Huntsville running back Henry Ford, who rushed for 165 yards and scored both of the Hornets’ touchdowns. “That’s what really beats us. When stuff like that fumble happens to us, we get down really easy.”
Later in the quarter, Huntsville, which heads to the Class 4A Division I playoffs next week as the fourth-place team in District 18-4A, had a center snap sail over the head of senior punter Adrian Juarez for a safety. And before the third quarter ended, Willis tacked on one more score, this one on a 1-yard plunge by running back Jerrid Deveraux.
In a matter of minutes, the Hornets dug themselves from a one-touchdown deficit into a 30-7 hole.
Willis, which finished in a three-way tie with Kingwood Park and Summer Creek for the district championship, scored one more touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Deveraux ripped through the Huntsville defense and raced 34 yards to make it 37-7.
“I really thought our defense played a good first half, and our offense did some good things, too,” Huntsville coach Shane Martin said. “Then in the second half Willis got that quick touchdown and we were in chase mode the reast of the night.
“Willis has a good football team, there’s no question about that,” Martin added. “But I know we’re a better football team than what we showed in the second half.
“We’ve got a chance to show it at least one more time when we start a new journey next week. We’re going to the playoffs, and there are a whole lot of football teams in Texas that would love to have that opportunity. We’re excited about that and we’re going to bust our tails and really get after it next week in practice. We’ve got to get past this one and start fresh next week.”
The Hornets will play Montgomery, the second-place team from 17-4A, next week in the Division I, or big-school, bi-district playoffs. Martin said the game likely will be played on Saturday at either Woodforest Bank Stadium in The Woodlands or Moorhead Stadium in Conroe.
A site and time for the playoff clash between the Hornets and Bears will be nailed down sometime today. Last season, Montgomery blew past Huntsville 31-0 in the bi-district round of the 4A playoffs.
Linebacker Darius Evans, who flew around all night and helped Huntsville stay close in the first half, said the Hornets can surprise the Bears if they simply play to their potential.
“This team has all the tools,” Evans said of the 2011 Hornets. “We’ve just got to use them. We’ve also got to work harder in practice. That’s where you win or lose games, in practice. We’ve got to push ourselves harder. We can’t settle for less.
“The main thing is we’ve got to keep everybody involved and keep everybody positive. When times get bad, we’ve got to be strong and keep everybody upbeat.”