The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Sports

August 23, 2013

HORNETS FOOTBALL — Fired up, ready for regular season

Hornets impressive again in final preseason scrimmage against Conroe, outscore Tigers five touchdowns to one

HUNTSVILLE — After another impressive showing Friday, Huntsville senior Dez Johnson declared the Hornets primed for what’s about to start next week.

“We’re ready for the season, baby,” Johnson said after the Hornets dominated the Conroe Tigers during the last preseason scrimmage this summer.

Next up is the 10-game regular season, which starts next Friday at Bowers Stadium with a clash against the Humble Wildcats. Huntsville plays only two nondistrict games before tackling an eight-game District 18-4A schedule that starts at home on Sept. 13 against rival Montgomery.

The Hornets don’t have to worry about that game yet. They can rest for a day or two and enjoy what they did Friday on their new turf field to a Class 5A team that made it to the playoffs last fall.

Huntsville outscored the Tigers five touchdowns to one during a long workout that was delayed for half an hour by lightning in the area. During the live half at the end of the scrimmage, the Hornets scored three touchdowns and turned away the Tigers the two times they moved deep into Huntsville territory.

Junior running back Harold Johnson, who’s starting because Johnny Crew broke his wrist during the first week of summer workouts, scored a pair of touchdowns Friday. Johnson raced 70 yards on the Hornets’ first play from scrimmage during the live half, then after senior Christain Champine snagged a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Malik Brown, Johnson added another TD on a 12-yard run.

“I feel good. I had two touchdowns when I finally got a chance to start at running back and show what I can do,” said Johnson, who carried the ball three times for 87 yards. “A big thanks goes to our offensive line. On that long touchdown run, our pulling guard and tackle came around and opened up a big hole. I was able to bounce it outside and just go.”

Junior Morie Evans also scored a couple of touchdowns during the controlled portion of the scrimmage. After ripping off a 53-yard run, Evans punched it in from 12 yards out. A few minutes later, Evans lined up in a slot to the left, took a handoff from backup quarterback Ryan Bristow, cut inside and scored untouched from 11 yards away.

A practice game that based on the number of skirmishes must have felt like the Super Bowl on the field wrapped up with players and coaches from both teams shaking hands. The Hornets had just held Conroe out of the end zone on its last possession.

Twice late in the scrimmage, Conroe drove the ball deep into Hornet territory. But Dez Johnson bounced on a fumble to stop one drive on the 7-yard line.

“I saw the misdirection, then their dude just lost the ball,” Dez Johnson said. “I jumped on it.”

Then as the clock ticked toward triple zero, the Hornets toughened again.

“Our defense came up and did what the defense is supposed to do — make stops and create turnovers,” Hornets coach Shane Martin said after the teams played through a light shower. “The big thing with our defense is, because our offense is so explosive and with so many of our guys going both ways, we’re going to get a little winded, plus we have to get back on the field so quickly.

“We’re going to be one of those bend-don’t-break-type defenses. They’re going to have some big plays and Conroe did have a few tonight.”

The Hornets didn’t allow a lot of big plays, though. Conroe scored its only touchdown of the evening with its third-team offense going against Huntsville’s No. 3 defense. Late in the second live quarter, the Tigers moved the ball but failed to score.

Defensively, the Tigers had no answers for a potent Huntsville squad that put on a fireworks show for the fans who came out to the high school for a sneak peek at the 2013 team.

Not only did Johnson, Evans, Champine, Brown and Bristow shine brightly Friday, so did E.J. York (29 yards on three carries), Scooter Jefferson, De’quaven Dickey and David Bohan. Defensively, big Da’Cuan Jenkins recorded two sacks and linebacker Michael Pena made a big stop late in the Tigers’ last drive.

“The tempo of the game, we’re trying to speed it up,” Martin said. “And on the first play of the live periods, we bust one for a touchdown. Then after our defense holds them without a first down, we throw the long ball and get another score. That’s pretty good stuff.

“Hopefully, we don’t get spoiled, but I really feel like we’re getting better every day. ... It really came together tonight. We were able to run the ball and throw the ball well. Malik would have had another long touchdown run, but we had a quick whistle on him. We’ve got to keep him and Bristow safe because they’re the leaders of this team.”

Like his senior defensive lineman Johnson, the coach feels like the Hornets are ready to turn their attention to the 10-game regular season, which starts in a few days. He’s anxious to see his team crank it up against Humble in a game that actually counts.

“We’re fortunate to have a lot of running backs and skill guys and all of them are a threat to go 60 (yards) or more every time they touch the ball,” Martin said. “Our offensive line did an outstanding job opening holes, which allowed those guys to get to the second level of Conroe’s defense. Any time we get to the second level, it’s a good thing for the Hornets.”

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