• John Macon Gillespie

Coverage Recap: Houston 32 Kosciusko 15

On a night that saw the state’s top-ranked 4A school, Pontotoc, fall, the Houston Hilltoppers quietly went about their business and took a six-game winning streak to seven games. Additionally, their already confident junior quarterback, Urriah Shephard, seemed to pick up even more steam in the second half.

Shephard was named the SES Mississippi Player of the Game, thanks to his three touchdowns in the second half. He rushed two in and threw a beautiful ball to Charles Spencer for another score. The half that he put together was even more impressive when you consider that he made adjustments and really turned it around after a poor first half.

At the half the Toppers and Whippets were locked at 7-7. First-year Houston head coach Ty Hardin said that the wing T offense that Kosciusko brought with them was something they had not seen on film and had not planned for. That’s not all too shocking when you consider that offensive coordinator Sid Wheatley was serving as interim head coach with head coach Chad Peterson suspended.

In the second half, despite the Whippet offense continuing to find success on the ground with Kadarius Banks and Stefan Harmon, Houston would enforce their will. Hardin’s Toppers would outscore Kosciusko 25-8 in the final two quarters. However, they did not do so without a bit of help.

After fumbling on each of their first two possessions, Kosciusko would also give it to Houston two consecutive times in the fourth quarter. One of those turnovers was an interception by Taylor Baskin, which he would return for a score.

Alongside Baskin, Johnta Walker, Tanner Bullock and Jalon Gates also stood out on the defensive side of the ball for Houston. Offensively, Shephard got help from freshman tailback Bobby Townsend, who the game’s first touchdown. Baskin made an impact at receiver, as well. Jalen May and Zykiel Virges were also part of the 25-point second half outburt.

Perhaps the only thing holding Houston back from being in serious contention to take over top spot in 4A is that their lone loss came to the team that is relinquishing it. Either way, Hardin’s Hilltoppers are hot and will host Leake Central plus Louisville in the next two weeks. Those games are followed by a road contest against Noxubee County to end the regular season.

Something else worth pointing out is the support shown by fans of the Houston program. Throughout this offseason and since he took the job, Hardin has spoken to be about the connection between the community and the football program there in his hometown.

Not only were the fans in maroon supportive until the final bell, but well beyond it. Many, many fans stuck around to embrace and congratulate their boys after cheering so loudly during their big win. Hardin’s vision for the program is coming to fruition in year one.

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