Courtesy Tom Waddell / ItemOnline.com / DJ Shafer
Where, oh where did the Huntsville offense go? Honestly, every time the Hornets played a big game this season, their offense vanished.
On Friday night, in arguably their most important game of the 2011 campaign, the Hornets’ “O” pulled its most confounding disappearing act.
Two first downs. That’s all Huntsville managed in a 28-3 loss to the Montgomery Bears in a Class 4A Division I bi-district playoff game at Moorhead Stadium.
The Hornets got one first down late in the first quarter on a 21-yard run by senior Henry Ford, then they moved the chains one more time late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Kent Albert connected with Kriston MInor on a 26-yard throw-and-catch. That was the Hornets’ only completed pass all night.
Huntsville, which lost to the Bears in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, finished the game with 66 yards of offense — 40 yards on 36 rushes and 26 yards on Albert’s throw to Minor with less than three minutes to play.
“My hat’s off to Montgomery,” Huntsville head coach Shane Martin said. “Defensively, really and truly, they got after us. They gave us different looks and that caused us problems.
“What they coached up in their defensive scheme was a fantastic scheme. They probably knew we were struggling throwing the ball, so they brought heat all night long. They loaded that box and really stopped our running game. We’d line up in the spread formation and still they’d bring heat. We just had trouble picking it up all night.”
Ford, the leading rusher in District 18-4A this season and the only back in the league to top the 1,000-yard mark, was held to 41 yards on 21 carries Friday. Huntsville’s second-leading ball carrier Friday was linebacker Darius Evans, who was forced into double duty because James Burns sat out with an ankle injury. Evans had nine yards on four carries.
Huntsville, which finished the ’11 season with a 4-7 record just like last year, had a few chances to do something Friday. The Hornets came up with three turnovers in the first half — two deep in Montgomery territory.
Late in the first quarter, the Bears sailed a snap over punter Levi Haarmeyer’s head. Huntsville took over on the Montgomery 13, but after being pushed back a couple of yards on three plays, the Hornets had an Isaac Guzman field goal attempt blocked.
That was one golden opportunity missed.
A few minutes later, Huntsville defensive end Steve York picked off a Ty Taliaferro pass and rumbled to the Bears’ 13-yard line. Again, Huntsville could not move the ball much and the Hornets settled for a 24-yard Guzman field goal.
“We got three turnovers and scored three points off them,” a frustrated Martin said. “We just struggled, that’s all there is to it.”
The Bears, who advance to play Vidor in the area round of the big-school playoffs, did not do anything mind-blowing offensively. Coach John Bolfing’s bunch simply ran and threw the ball efficiently all night long, scoring a touchdown in all four quarters.
Junior tailback Dedrick Linton, who led Montgomery with 123 yards on 21 carries, scored early in the first quarter on a 9-yard run. He added a 14-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice.
In between Linton’s TDs, junior Jimmy Dominick scored from 18 yards away and senior receiver Alex Peppe snagged an 11-yard pass from Taliaferro for a third-quarter touchdown.
When the game was over, the Bears had compiled 413 total yards of offense — 193 on the ground and 220 through the air.
Huntsville’s defense played well enough to keep the game close, but because the Hornets were so anemic on offense, Montgomery had enough points to win this one 1:12 into the game.
“Everything happened so fast,” Huntsville linebacker Bridge Blount said after he played his last game for the Hornets. “I can’t believe it’s all over. It seems like two days ago that we were playing Brenham in the season opener, and now it’s all over.
“I wish football was year-round. I played three years on the varsity and loved playing with these guys. I just can’t believe that three years are already gone.”