Courtesy Gene Schallenberg / The Huntsville Item
It doesn’t get much simpler for the Hornets from this point forward.
Take care of business in the next three weeks and Huntsville will be headed back to the playoffs for a fourth straight fall.
Deadlocked in a five-way tie for first place in District 18-4A, the Hornets know that a couple of more wins will clinch another trip to the postseason.
While Kingwood Park and Willis, both are also tied for first, may stand out on Huntsville’s remaining schedule, the Hornets knows that before they can even think about those matchups, they have to take care of New Caney in their homecoming game tonight at Bowers Stadium.
“We just have to play New Caney right now and worry about the other ones when they come,” senior quarterback Kent Albert said following Thursday’s walkthrough.
“New Caney’s a big game. We don’t want to look bad on homecoming,” junior Ricky Bennett said.
The Hornets, who stand at 3-1 in district and 3-4 overall, are coming off their biggest win of the season after knocking off Humble, the defending district champs, last week in Huntsville.
After getting that signature win against the Wildcats, not only did the Hornets get a big jolt of momentum, but it put Huntsville back in the race for a postseason berth and a possible district title.
“Beating Humble — they had the number four defense in the Houston area — that just gave us a boost of confidence,” senior Cameron Shirley said. “We were able to hold their offense to seven points.”
“I think it just sparked us as a team,” senior Kriston Minor said. “I honestly think the chemistry is there now.”
Though the Hornets are still riding high over their big win over Humble, they know they are still at least two wins away from returning to the playoffs. While showdowns against Kingwood Park and Willis loom ahead, Huntsville knows that it can’t look past tonight’s contest against the Eagles.
“We didn’t talk a whole lot about the playoffs. That’s in the future. I told them that if their goal was to be in the playoffs, they had to go in and beat New Caney on Friday night,” Hornets head coach Shane Martin said. “That’s what we as a coaching staff and the players have to stay focused on.
“We can’t overlook New Caney. I think Humble overlooked us a little bit and then they realized pretty quick that it was going to be a dogfight. I don’t want that to happen to us on Friday night. I want us to go out and execute and take control of the game and do what we have to do to get a win.”
For much of the Hornets’ game last week, senior running back Henry Ford, who has compiled more than 800 rushing yards this season, filled in on defense for linebacker Markey Thomas, who left the game with a bone bruise.
Thomas’ status is still in doubt, but thanks to junior James Burns’ contribution at tailback (78 rushing yards and a touchdown), the Hornets have a variety of options in the backfield that they can utilize.
“One thing about those two guys being in the backfield is what that’s going to do is open up your passing attack,” Martin said. “When they start loading up the box to stop the run, it’ll open up our passing game where we can get the ball into the hands of guys like Kriston Minor and Ricky Bennett.”
In order for Huntsville to extend it’s winning streak to four games and remain in first place, the formula’s pretty simple, according to Martin.
“I think we’ve got to do the same things we did against Humble. … We have to create turnovers, we have to tackle well,” the coach said.
“On offense, we have to execute. We have to put the ball in our running back’s hands, we have to put the ball in our receivers’ hands and allow them to make plays. I think our quarterback Kent Albert is doing a better job making decisions on the field. We just have to execute.”