Straughn hands HA first loss in stunning upset, 35-21

Published 10:27 pm Friday, October 6, 2023

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Straughn celebrated 50 years of football and snapped fifth-ranked Houston Academy’s 15-game regular season winning streak with a 35-21 home upset Friday night.

SHS Head Coach Ashley Kilcrease felt his team had a great plan entering the game.

“Houston Academy was averaging a ton of points and playing great on defense. You can’t say enough about our kids and our coaches. I’m so proud of our kids for the way we believed in the plan and rallied to execute it tonight. I told the kids the good Lord doesn’t always give us what we want (after losing to Ariton) and gives us what we need. We needed some humility and went to work at practice this week. That’s a good football team we just beat. While the region is a long way from over, it gives a leg up. New Brockton will be much improved in our final road game next week, so we will need to be ready to play,” Kilcrease said.

The Tigers (5-1, 4-0 3A Region 2) exploded on the first play of the game when Layne Grantham gashed for a 79-yard touchdown run. Brenden Bartholomew added the PAT for a 7-0 lead just 20 seconds into the contest. The Raiders (5-1, 3-1) were held to a pair of 4-yard runs by Brady Whigham and went three-and-out.

Starting at the opposing 48-yard-line, Grant Barnes had two runs and converted a third-and-3. After a 7-yard first-down run from Grantham, Barnes moved the chains again on a 6-yard carry. Three plays later, it was third-and-10 at the 20. Houston Academy was poised to make a stop, but it was not in the cards as Parker Black made a stellar 19-yard catch at the 1. Grantham crossed the goal line on second down, and Bartholomew was true to extend the lead to 14-0 with 4:41 left in the first quarter.

The Raiders gained their initial first down on the next drive thanks to an offside penalty but again saw the defense force a punt. This time, the Tigers were pinned deep at their own 9-yard-line. Barnes had a 15-yard run for some breathing room, and Charlie Jordan converted a third-and-2 with a 6-yard run. Following a holding penalty, Grantham earned a 16-yard run on the last play of the quarter. Early in the second, Clark Jordan kept the drive alive with a 19-yard reception and a first down across midfield. Grantham moved the chains again on a third-and-4 with a 36-yard pass to Black at the visiting 5. A late hit resulted in a half-the-distance penalty, and Barnes had a 3-yard touchdown run. Bartholomew booted the extra point for a 21-0 lead with 9:20 to go until halftime.

Houston Academy opened its next series at the 34-yard-line and quickly made two first downs with 14-yard passes from Kadyn Mitchell to Camden Dyer and Brayden Eubanks. Mitchell moved the chains on third-and-10 with a 16-yard run to the home 8. Eli Guilford came up with a huge sack for a loss, but Mitchell had a 21-yard touchdown run and cut the deficit to 21-6. The PAT was wide left at the 3:53 point of the second.

The Tigers were not about to go quietly and dealt one final before halftime. Barnes converted a third-and-9 with a 34-yard scamper, and Charlie Jordan followed suit with a 22-yard pickup to the opposing 8. The Raiders almost held on third-and-goal but were once again stunned as Grantham threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Clark Jordan in the corner of the end zone. Bartholomew’s fourth PAT put the halftime score at 28-6.

Houston Academy opened the second half with one first down and crossed midfield before Ryan Cobb made a clutch fumble recovery. Straughn rolled the dice on fourth-and-1 but turned the ball over on downs.

The next drive began when M.J. Dauphin delivered the boom on a sack. Mitchell recovered for a 15-yard pass to Dyer two plays later. Following a 6-yard run from Judson Bailey on second-and-goal, the Raiders closed the gap to 28-14 with 2:18 left in the third. Dyer had a 3-yard touchdown run, and the two-point try was good. The Tigers answered right back with their strong running attack. Barnes got the majority of the runs with five carries for 61 yards. The final one was a 34-yard touchdown run as Bartholomew split the uprights a fifth time for a 35-21 margin with 8:55 to go in the game.

Houston Academy did not back down and needed only six plays to find the end zone again. Mitchell found Eubanks open on a 33-yard touchdown pass, and the PAT closed the scoring. Straughn took over and churned up the clock reaching inside the red zone at the 19-yard-line before lining up in the victory formation.

The Tigers hit the road for the final time in the regular season on Friday, Oct. 13, at New Brockton (1-5, 1-4).