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October 19, 2011

Huntsville football: From frustrating start to fabulous finish?

After three wins in a row, Hornets stand tall with four others atop district standings

HUNTSVILLE — What began as one of the Hornets’ most frustrating seasons may turn out to be one of Huntsville’s most rewarding campaigns ever.

The Hornets are in the hunt — the playoff hunt and the championship hunt. That’s remarkable considering the amount of adversity thrown in the Hornets’ path this season.

During a tough first month in which Huntsville went winless and was outscored 141-35 in three nondistrict games, the Hornets also lost their starting quarterback, senior Daniel Hazlewood, and two other starters (suspended) for the rest of the season.

Additionally, a talented team was not playing up to its potential. Linemen were being pushed around, running backs were fumbling the football, defenders were missing tackles.

The Hornets were a mess.

Then something happened at halftime of the district opener. The Hornets flipped a switch and started fighting. More importantly, they started blocking, tackling and holding onto the football.

Today, they are riding high on a three-game winning streak. Huntsville stands tall in a five-way tie for first place in District 18-4A.

Hornets head coach Shane Martin shakes his head then smiles when folks ask him how his Huntsville squad has shaken off its rough start and become a contender for the district title.

“This is one of those pleasant surprises,” Martin said during a short break in practice Wednesday. “Really and truly I felt like this team all year has had a chance to be right where it is right now, so this is one of those surprises that is expected.

“But after those first couple of weeks, we were all thinking, well maybe not. Now, we’re saying why not us.”

Why not think that way? Huntsville, last week, knocked off Humble, the defending district champions. The Hornets did it with offense, they did it with defense and they did it with special teams. Everything came together on a cool Friday evening at Bowers Stadium.

“I think the kids are starting to realize we’ve got a pretty good football team,” Martin boasted. “We’re starting to play well on offense and defense. Last week we had some good drives that took time off the clock. We also put some points on the board with our offense, and our defense scored a touchdown, too.

“Our defense created five turnovers and we got four of them — two fumbles and two interceptions. Dearron Archie’s interception (at the start of the second half) was very, very big. Our punter, Adrian Juarez, also played a big part in that win, punting out of a lot of holes.

“We really felt like we did a lot of things right in that win over Humble.”

Martin hopes the Hornets can keep doing those little things right. If they do, they can accomplish goal No. 1 and advance to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. And if they continue to improve like they have in the past month, they can challenge the four teams that they are tied with atop the 18-4A standings.

“We need to win Friday,” Martin said of this week’s homecoming game against New Caney. “Then we need to come back and beat Kingwood Park and Willis. If we put two wins together, we’ll get back in the playoffs. Five district wins and we’re in for sure. Four can get us in, but we could end up out of the playoffs if Summer Creek runs the table.

“I just want us to continue to play well and play better each week,” the coach added. “If we do that we’ll have an opportunity to be in the hunt for a district championship.”

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