UPDATE: Tuesday's game has been pushed back to Wednesday (same time) due to a weather-related power outage at Nacogdoches.
After a two-month delay, the Huntsville Hornets are finally scheduled to tip off their season Wednesday night at Nacogdoches.
Football season getting pushed back, coupled with a three-round-deep playoff run, left the Hornets without several key contributors — including District 20-5A Offensive MVP Jadarian White, Newcomer of the Year AJ Wilson and all-district point guard Tie Matthews — until the final week of December. Now, without the luxury of easing into the season, Huntsville will look to hit the ground running.
“The main thing is just the guys getting in shape and getting their basketball legs under them,” Huntsville head coach Jay Oliphant said. “Football and basketball are two completely different sports in the way you have to condition. The main thing now is just getting guys in shape and getting continuity.”
Huntsville, which won 43 consecutive District 20-5A games on its way to three straight league titles from 2017-2020, will be playing its first game in District 16-5A on Tuesday night.
The Hornets will go from playing teams in the northern end of the Greater Houston Area, with each district opponent being within 60 miles, to traveling upwards of an hour for every league contest. Their closest district foe will now be Lufkin — roughly 75 miles from Huntsville — with Tyler and Whitehouse both over two hours away.
In addition to the added strain and logistics of travel, the Hornets are also likely set to face an increase in competition — something that had been largely absent in league play for the past three seasons.
“I'm expecting us to play some guys that are a little bit more athletic,” the coach added. “We're going to play some guys that look somewhat more like we look. I've never played too many East Texas schools, so it's going to be something new to all of us. As a coaching staff and with the players, we're going to have to be on our Ps and Qs for a little while until we get it figured out.”
Huntsville returns four of its top five scorers from last year’s team, which secured the program’s first area championship in over a decade, with senior all-district big man Taylor Harrell serving as a near 6-foot-10 anchor in the post. The Hornets also have several new faces expected to make an impact, including football standouts Jordan Woodberry, Carnellius Lawerence and Kameron Cole.
In a season that has already been filled with adversity, Olpihant notes that experience and continuity will be pivotal to his team’s success.
“It's very big this year,” he said. “They already know what's going on, the main thing is just getting the chemistry down with the new pieces that we have.”
Tipoff for Tuesday night’s game is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. at Nacogdoches High School.