Unbeaten Houston blanks Bolton 45-0

After coming up with a turnover against Bolton, Houston cornerback Will Stegall wears a Troll given to turnover playmakers. Houston Defensive Coordinator Bobby Armbruster came up with the idea this season.

Feeding the need, Houston assistant football coach Collins Day tossed beef jerky to offensive/defensive lineman Morgan Scott during the Mustangs’ 45-0 victory over Bolton on Friday.

“I was hungry on the sideline,” said Scott, a 6-4, 310-pound senior offensive and defensive lineman.

“He’s a big boy and likes to eat,” said James Thomas, Houston head coach. “Coach Day said that he is going to feed Morgan when he does well.”

Houston’s defense took the challenge that defensive coordinator Bobby Armbruster gave them before the game:

“Come out and put it on them, give them a short field, get some takeaways. He wanted a zero on the scoreboard and that is what we got. I feel like that is a good goal and we accomplished it,” said Thomas.

Rewarding takeaways was the Turnover Troll. Armbruster started it this season and players who create a turnover put the red-headed troll around their necks on the sideline.

Taking turns wearing it included linebacker Josh Mathis who recovered a fumble at the Bolton 14-yard line setting up the Mustangs’ third touchdown of the first quarter; defensive lineman Jaylin Lee who recovered a fumble that led to Houston’s fourth touchdown two minutes after the third; cornerback Will Stegall who intercepted a pass. Defensive back Jaylin Momon had a long interception that was negated because of a penalty.

“Kids love those kind of things. Little fun stuff like that keeps it interesting,” said Thomas of the troll.

Patrolling the Wildcats was a Houston defense that created havoc.

“That is where turnovers come from,” said Houston quarterback Ethan Burns. “We’ve had three really good games. The defense has shown up every game. When your defense is on it’s not hard for the offense to get going. You get the ball in good field position, get the momentum and they are down because they can’t move the ball.”

Houston running back Lincoln Pare said, “I’m really proud of the way they shut out people.”

Hank Pearson, Houston linebacker, said, “The defense played great. They have been there all season long. Tonight was a coming out party for them, getting their first shutout of the season. It’s been a great experience for the defense as dominant as they were tonight.”

Stegall said, “Our defense changed the game. As a defense we are getting a lot better.”

Now 3-0, Houston dominated Southaven 36-12 in the season opener and Central 48-13 last week.

The Mustangs took off to the races early.

Burns hit wide receiver Grayson Hitt for a 50-yard touchdown 29 seconds into the game. In his first varsity season kicking, Carson Richards booted his first of seven extra points for a 7-0 lead.

Faced with a 4th and 15 Bolton punted and on the Mustangs’ first play of their possession, Pare ran 31 yards for a 13-0 lead with 10:24 left in the first quarter. Richards increased it to 14-0.

After Mathis’ fumble recovery, Stegall raced 18 yards scoring his first touchdown of the season for a 20-0 lead with 8:56 left in the first.

His twin brother Ben Stegall said, “It’s amazing to see Will score. It’s awesome.”

After Will Stegall broke up a pass by Bolton quarterback DeMario House, Jayden Thompson ran to his 32. The Wildcats got their initial first down of the game with 7:18 left in the quarter.

After a sack by R.H. Frankland that led to House fumbling, Lee took it to the house for a 37-yard touchdown. Richards made it 28-0 with 6:50 left in the first.

Lee’s TD was a “fat-guy touchdown, rumbling. He picks it up and scores. That is always fun,” said Thomas. “We were attacking the quarterback all night. We were in his face. We jumped on them really quick. I challenged them to come out of the locker room to do exactly that. If we are going to be a good team we are going to have beat teams like we are supposed to. I felt like we are batter than Bolton and I feel like (Bolton head coach) C.J. Marshall is going to do a good job. He is building something. Right now we are a better football team.

“We needed to put it on quick and that is what they did and I am proud of that. Last week we got better against Central. We didn’t have a great week of practice. Maybe our focus wasn’t all there but when the lights came on tonight we turned it on. We’ve got to learn to be a great football team you have to bring it every day.”

Houston defensive back Darby Smith said, “After the first turnover we scored on our third play. Then we forced a quick turnover and scored on the first play of that drive and had a scoop and score and it was done from there. They didn’t really stand a chance.”

The Wildcats came up with a big defensive play of their own late in the first when they stopped Pare on fourth and three at the Bolton 26.

With 7:09 left in the second, Pare ran 10 yards to get his second TD of the game. It was 35-0 after Richards’ kick propelling a Houston student wearing a Tim Tebow jersey into 35 push ups. Girls do push ups after the first two touchdowns and guys take over from there.

Bolton got a first down pass when House found Josh Alexander at the Houston 42. House’s pass to Thompson notched another first down at the 22. However a holding penalty cost the Wildcats. It could have hurt worse.

Momon intercepted a pass but a pass interference penalty nullified the return. With the ball on the 23, Houston stymied the scoring threat with three straight sacks. Cade Young sacked House for a 10-yard loss.

“Cade Young played an outstanding game,” said Scott.

Deion Harris then sacked House and Pearson and Harris sacked House. Bolton was at the Houston 41 facing fourth and 25.

“Once you have got teams down, being able to step on their throat, you keep the fire up and not let them off,” said Pearson.

With the five-touchdown lead at halftime, Thomas did not make any halftime adjustments.

“I wanted to get starters to get one more series in. I thought they needed the work. We have got a new offensive line that we are trying to get to jell and I felt the defense could use a little more work so I wanted to come out and get another stop and get the offense going a little bit,” he said.

Pare’s 29-yard run in the third quarter set up Richard’s 35-yard field goal for a 38-0 lead.

After being sacked by Cooper Lomax, House recovered with an 11-yard pass to Alexander to get the Wildcats to the Houston 47.

But then Momon ran 57 yards for a touchdown with 1:08 left and Richards kicked it to 45-0.

“We all worked together even though we came out thinking we were going to win. I think we exceeded what we were going to do,” said sophomore wide receiver Tim Toney. “Everybody gave it the 100. Instead of ‘hey we already won’ we had to stay humble and keep on giving our all.”

Rushing for 115 yards on 13 carries, Pare entered the game needing 1,600 yards to become Houston’s all-time career rushing leader.

“It’s definitely something I look at but the main goal is to play with the team and do what I need to do to win every game,” said Pare.

Thomas said, “When you have No. 4 (Pare) in the backfield you can always count on him giving you his best effort. He won’t be happy with his yardage, we kept getting the short field, but he will always be happy to win.”

Marshall, in his first season as head coach at Bolton, was happy to learn that his team is invested.

“They are committed. They are going to fight to the end. My team showed that we have a tremendous amount of heart. We are going to fight to the end no matter what the scoreboard says, no matter what adversity we face. I know my guys have got my back and I have theirs.

“We preach pride That is one thing we are big on at Bolton, pride for our school, pride for our families, pride for our community. Because of that we are never going to give up.”

Taking care of the home team is Bolton’s motto.

“It’s about winning football, changing the outlook as a school and football program,” said Marshall who has a new coaching staff and about five returning players from last year’s 0-10 team. “We are all growing together, as team and first-year head coach.”

A former assistant at Kingsbury, Marshall coached at Bolton during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

One of Bolton’s playmakers with six receptions and two tackles, Alexander said, “I saw that my teammates were focused and locked in for the most part.”

Alexander is being recruited by Defiance (Ohio) College, Murray State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois.

“Josh, Jayden came up big. Zemare Walker got going in the run game for us early but he ended up getting hurt. I think he had a fractured hip. He wasn’t able to finish. Those guys played well in the passing game. We need to make a few more plays,” said Marshall, who played quarterback and wide receiver at Bolton, graduating in 2011, before playing at Memphis and then at Lane College.

Marshall said the biggest thing his Wildcats learned, “Houston is a very good team. They are well coached. They are fundamentally sound. We tried mixing up formations to see if they would line up in a different way. They stayed solid and disciplined. They were committed to doing their jobs. Hats off to them.”

Whenever Bolton tried to cut block the Mustangs up front, “they were athletic enough to still give pressure so we started blocking up front to give us a little more time to throw down field,” said Marshall.

With more handoffs than throws, Burns completed 1 of 6 passes for 50 yards, the touchdown to Hitt.

“Our passing wasn’t as good as I would like it to be. Our line wasn’t as good as they usually are. We have a few guys out. There are a few things we can work out,” said Burns. “A lot of guys got experience. It was good. They are grinding like all the starters are in practice making us better. It’s good to get them out there and let them have some fun.”

After the game Pare said, “I’m feeling good. We just got a big win. The sweeps really clicked. We had a few offensive lineman in, young pups stepping up after injury. It was good to see those guys out there. Luke Needham (the brother of Matt Needham, who is playing at University of Tennessee-Martin) is a guy who really stepped up for us. We need more depth and I think it showed tonight.

“The offense has been really good this year because we have multiple weapons with receivers. You don’t know what is going to hit you, either the pass or the run. We can do both. We can overall improve on everything. Hitting the hole harder is something that I can improve on. Every day Coach (Thomas) says we have to get 100 percent better every week on defense and offense.”

Smith said the Mustangs were “getting careless” when they made penalties that cost them good field position.

“Jaylin Momon gets a pick that got called back and we had a roughing the kicking call that gave them a first down,” said Thomas. “We have to clean that stuff up. We had a lot of young guys in there who didn’t have a lot of experience. The more experience they get the better they will be.”

Two of the best things about the game for Thomas was Will Higgins getting his first start of his high school career at center.

“I thought he did a nice job. He has battled with injuries his whole career. I was happy for that kid to get a chance to play and start a game his senior year. It was real special to him.”

He was also proud of Richards, who went 6 for 6 on extra points and 2 for 2 field goals against Central.

“He has really worked on his craft. Tonight he was perfect on extra points and field goals. He’s really coming into his own. We had a big hole to fill with Nick Anewalt and he’s done really well.”

A junior, Richards said, “Our line did really well. Our long snapper (Gray Nischwitz) had really nice snaps. Lincoln did a perfect job holding. That is how I was able to score nine points.”

The win provides momentum he said against ECS (3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Houston. Bolton (0-3) hosts St. Benedict (0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Thomas said that Pare “had another good night. Grayson Hitt started us off with with a big bomb down the sideline and he took it the distance. Will Stegall had a good pick. The offensive line was back and forth and had some good plays and some bad plays. At the end the JV got in. Jaylin Momon took it to the house. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Said Pearson, “After we got our first score we stayed persistent and got some guys in there that haven’t had as much time this season and got them some varsity experience.” Pearson was pleased with his pursuit and blocking.

Both Will Stegall and Ben Stegall are taking a greater leadership role this year as sophomores.

Ben has also worn the troll. “To see Ben wearing the troll means a lot because he is my brother and is doing good things on the field,” said Will.

Ben said, “We are getting better each game. We are very young and trusting each other more and more. Our offense is getting better at being a passing offense, not just run. Our defense is doing their role.”

While there are no trolls to wear around their necks, after touchdowns there are player celebrations on the Jumbotron “which is really cool” said Pare.

Bolton’s goal was to stop Pare and other Houston runners.

“We try to stop the run first and keep teams from running down our throat,” said Marshall, who has put in a 4-2-5 defense and multiple spread offense.

Being 4A, the Wildcats will play three other region teams. Early-season games are tuneups for region play said Marshall. “We still have time to develop and get ready for region.”

One of the players biggest cheers came after the game. Marshall told them they were getting free tickets to Memphis’ game Saturday against Southern.

The Mustangs started fast against Bolton, a change from the week before.

“We started slow against Central but we picked it up,” said Smith. “We had some high energy coming into this week which carried over into this game.”