NEW CANEY — The Huntsville Hornets have payback on the mind.
Eight days removed from a 23-point win in their playoff opener, the Hornets kept rolling Saturday afternoon at Randall Reed Stadium.
After swapping leads with Crosby throughout the first half, Huntsville took control over the final two quarters. Senior quarterback Matthew Southern passed for 256 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another score, leading the Hornets to a 54-44 victory in the area round of the Class 5A, Division II playoffs.
The win sets up a rematch with Fort Bend Marshall, which ended Huntsville's 2018 season in the state quarterfinals on a last-second trick play. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday at Woodforest Bank Stadium in The Woodlands.
"It replays in my mind almost every day," Huntsville senior linebacker Jordan Brown said of last year's game, which FB Marshall won on a fourth-down desperation heave with 33 seconds remaining.
"I still remember the score: 47-43."
Crosby opened Saturday's game with a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive but missed the ensuing extra point. Huntsville answered right back.
Senior receiver Tyrique Carter ran a hitch-and-go down the sideline, leaving a pair of Crosby receivers in the dust. Southern hit him in stride for a 37-yard strike to put the Hornets up 7-6, and Miles Tatum stretched the lead to eight points moments later with a 12-yard score — the first of three third-down receptions in the red zone for the senior wide-out.
Crosby reclaimed a six-point lead with 6:33 left in the second quarter. However, Jayden Baker responded immediately with perhaps the highlight of his senior season, a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Huntsville didn't trail the rest of the game, and led by as much as 24 points in the third quarter.
"We talked about discipline yesterday," Huntsville head coach Rodney Southern said. "The most disciplined team would win ... we talked about that at halftime, and started the third quarter the right way."
The Hornets were able to remain ahead by double digits for the final 22:21 of regulation in large part due to a suffocating defensive effort. With senior linebacker Jordan Brown — who along with senior safety Jaden Schroeder, ended a Crosby scoring opportunity with an interception — leading the way, the Hornet defense set its offense up with an average second-half field position of the Cougars' 44-yard line.
"There's so much that Jordan does that nobody knows about," Huntsville head coach Rodney Southern said. "A lot of his stuff on kicking game is critical. Jordan is a natural football player and a great leader. He doesn't say it a lot, but it shows. Id' love to have 10 more just like him."
Defensive linemen Ed Bobino and Sebastian Patterson also made their impact felt for the Hornets, with each delivering two sacks and a handful of QB hurries. Junior Quaterian Riles added a sack as well, while also rushing for a touchdown at the goal line.
Huntsville's ability to maintain drives played a significant part in its success, with the Hornets converting their first seven third-down tries. They didn't attempt a punt until the six-minute mark of the third quarter.
Carter led all Huntsville receivers with 97 yards to go along with his first-quarter score, while Tatum hauled in three catches for 38 yards — including a pair of touchdowns. Nate Hambright had 55 yards on three catches, while senior running back Cameron Myers had 92 yards from scrimmage and a receiving touchdown.
"We've been more consistent and we've been healthy," Coach Southern said. "That's the biggest thing ... we're playing better on both sides of the ball, so that makes the offense a little better.
"And it's this time of year. These kids understand it's win or go home."
With an opportunity to avenge last year's heartbreaking playoff defeat just days away, the Hornets are eager to get back to work — and more focused than ever.
"We just keep playing," Matthew Southern said. "We're not worried about who we're playing, but we know deep down that Fort Bend Marshall is ready for us. We're going to have to have a good week at practice and take advantage of every day."
“I wanted them to win (in the area round),” added Tatum. “We’re ready to play them and beat them.”