Coverage Recap: Pontotoc 41 | Houston 12
The Houston Hilltoppers put up a fight but were eventually outgunned by the Pontotoc Warriors on the opening Friday night of the 2017 season.
The Warriors defeated Houston 41-12, marking the second straight season that they have defeated the Toppers in their annual matchup. Pontotoc was led by a performance from Immanuel Vance, who exploded for three touchdowns in the second half. Quarterback Justin Carter also threw for two scores while fellow-Warrior signal-caller London Jordan threw for one.
Many of the questions posed before the start of this game seem to be answered, at least temporarily. Pontotoc seemed to thrive offensively despite using two different quarterbacks throughout the course of the game and being without their leading rusher from a season ago in Gabe Harmon. Both Carter and Jordan filled the quarterbacking shoes nicely and Immanuel Vance put on a clinic as he evaded Houston defenders.
Houston’s concerns seemed to rest mainly on stopping Vance from getting big gains in the second half. Although numerous Toppers began to succumb to the humid conditions with cramps late in the contest, there were a few instances throughout the game when Houston had Pontotoc in third down and long situations only to have the Warriors execute a big play for a first down. To be fair, however, Pontotoc has a great amount of speed with names like Austin Morphis, Immanuel Vance and Caleb Hobson, all of whom scored touchdowns on Friday.
Houston’s offense at times looked very promising. Big gains on pass plays or on kickoff returns would set the Topper offense up nicely in Warrior territory only for the drive to stall. Despite the sputtering offense, Urriah Shephard shined at times as he eluded pressure to find an open receiver or tuck the ball and run downfield. Both Topper touchdowns came via Shephard, one a pass to Jacorey Gordon and the other a quarterback keeper. Although Shephard was accurate for most of the night, many of his passes were dropped, which is an issue that the Toppers will have to resolve moving forward.
The bright spot for Houston, however, is that they have a very talented roster. It just so happened that that roster got outmatched this week. Houston will still win games and could win many before the season is over.
For Pontotoc, many were afraid that the Warriors would sputter after losing some of the talent from last season’s historic roster. If Friday was any indication, however, it appears that the Warriors will still be a dangerous 4A team in 2017 and could make a deep playoff run.
Next Friday, Houston travels to the reigning 2A champ Calhoun City while Pontotoc travels to Senatobia.