By Ruthie Robison The Winston County Journal
Houston definitely had a problem last Friday night at R.E. Hinze Stadium. And it was the Louisville Wildcat defense.
“Our defense came out and played hard (Friday),” said Wildcat head coach M.C. Miller. “We’ve been getting better and better each game we play, and it seems like we’re peaking at the right time in the season.”
Louisville hosted the Houston Hilltoppers in the third round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A playoffs in what was a rematch of a Region 4 bout earlier in the season.
The Wildcats continued to have the upper hand over Houston as they defeated the Hilltoppers, 46-21.
Houston started the scoring in the first quarter, but were unable to reach the end zone again until 6:31 was left in the game.
Houston’s Chris Jones picked off junior quarterback Wyatt Roberts’ only intercepted pass during the game, and ran 71 yards for a Hilltopper touchdown. After the extra point, Houston had a 7-0 lead over the Wildcats.
But the Hilltoppers would soon lose their seven point advantage.
Roberts seized a chance to redeem his earlier errant throw in dramatic fashion. Roberts found junior wide receiver Desmond Goss with a 73-yard pass. Louisville trailed Houston by only one point.
The Wildcats and Hilltoppers battled throughout the remainder of the first quarter and most of the second swapping punts throughout the first half of the game.
With 3:34 left before halftime, the Louisville defense took control of the game.
Stefan Brown got the Wildcat scoring started with a pick-six from 43 yards out.
After the kickoff, Christian Wraggs forced the Hilltopper returner to fumble. Jalon Sangster quickly recovered the ball, and brought it to the five-yard line. A couple of plays later, Roberts punched it in from four yards out. Louisville had gained an 18-7 advantage over Houston.
However, the Wildcat defense was relentless.
On the first play of the Hilltopper ensuing possession, Jeremy Sangster intercepted a Houston pass giving Louisville the ball on the Hilltopper 24-yard line. The next play Roberts found Goss for the third Wildcat touchdown in two minutes. Louisville converted the extra points with a pass from Roberts to Dontae Jones.
The Wildcat defense continued to pressure the Hilltopper quarterback Sharone Wright throughout the game with seven sacks, three interceptions and 11 quarterback hurries.
The Wildcats had gained a 26-7 momentum over Houston before halftime.
After forcing the Hilltoppers to punt on their first possession of the second half, Louisville began moving the chains. A 48-yard pass from Roberts to Goss, set up a one-yard keeper to the end zone by Roberts with 8:41 left in the third quarter.
On Houston’s following possession, Jalon Sangster made another big defensive play for the Wildcats.
Sangster picked off the Hilltopper quarterback, and made a 23-yard scamper for another Louisville touchdown. Corey McCullough added the extra point.
With a 39-7 playoff lead, the Wildcat reserves took over.
The Hilltoppers managed to reach the end zone twice before the game ended.
Louisville answered back between the pair of Houston scoring possessions with a touchdown run by Demarcus Brooks followed by McCullough’s extra point increasing the lead, 46-21.
“We have a young team, and at the beginning of the year we struggled,” Miller said. “But it’s finally coming together. We knew by the middle of the season we’d be better, and right now they’re rising to the occasion.”
J.J. Waldrip had two carries for 58 yards. Travian Hudson had six carries for 46 yards while Cass Love had six carries for 38 yards. Roberts had eight carries for 15 yards with two touchdowns.
Roberts was 10-17 through the air for 201 yards with two touchdowns.
Goss had four receptions for 158 yards with two touchdowns. Dalton Hudspeth had two receptions for 22 yards while Hudson had one reception for 11 yards. Jones had two receptions for seven yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jeremy Sangster led with 11 stops, two sacks, two quarterback hurries, one interception and one fumble recovery. Channing Hughes followed with nine stops while Darius Miller had eight. Shaquille Shumaker had five stops, one sack and two quarterback hurries. Wraggs had four stops, two sacks and five quarterback hurries. Lawilliam Carter and Brittian Wicks had a sack each.
“They understand what we have to do now. They were a little hesitant earlier in the year about knowing what to do,” Miller said. “They were guessing and making the wrong plays, but they got the system under their belt. Now they don’t have to think and guess at it anymore; they can just go and react to the ball.”
The Wildcats are now one game away from a trip to Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson to claim their eighth state championship in school history.
But before Louisville is Jackson bound, the Wildcats have to take on the undefeated Noxubee County Tigers for the second time this season.
The Wildcats will travel to Macon to take on the Tigers for the MHSAA Class 4A North Half championship title.
Louisville will enter the matchup with a 10-4 overall record. The Wildcats only suffered one district loss this year. Earlier in the season, Noxubee County defeated Louisville at home for the district title, 41-28.
“We have improved a whole lot since then, and I know (Noxubee County) has too,” Miller said.
“Those guys are good, and the senior group is the last group that I coached so it’s good that we are playing for a North State championship. But we are going over there to get it.”
The Wildcats were unable to contain senior Darrell Robinson in the previous matchup this season. Robinson had 39 carries for 326 yards and scored all six Tiger touchdowns.
“We want the momentum of this win over Houston to carry over into the game this Friday,” Miller said.
The Wildcats will be looking for revenge, the North Half championship and a trip to Jackson this Friday night.
Noxubee County recently defeated Itawamba AHS, 16-3.
The winner will face the South Half champions, which will be either Quitman (13-1) or Greene County (9-4).
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.