It's one thing to get off to a good start, but it's another thing to finish on a positive note.
The Houston Tigers found out about this firsthand Sept. 12 as they played host to the visiting Thayer Bobcats in a non-conference matchup on the gridiron.
The Tigers scored the first time they got their hands on the ball in the first quarter, but by the fourth quarter they just couldn't hang onto to the football as the Bobcats' defense played a huge part in a 24-14 Thayer win on a wet, slick field in Houston.
The Tigers struck quicker than lightning as Greg O'Neil took the Bobcats' opening kickoff and sprinted 85 yards downfield for a TD to put Houston (1-1) up 6-0 barely 13 seconds into the game.
"I just don't think we were focused to start the game, and it cost us a quick score," said Bobcat Head Coach Billy Webber. "I do think that got our attention and got us back on track, though."
The Bobcats didn't let this special teams breakdown knock them off stride as they answered with their first score a minute-and-a-half later.
Junior quarterback Andrew Eckman capped Thayer's five-play, 71-yard scoring drive with a 47-yard TD strike to sophomore wideout John Tollenaar with 10:00 to play in the first quarter. Senior Carl Hunter booted the PAT to steal the lead back from the Tigers at 7-6.
Asked what it means to answer a quick score with one of your own, Webber said, "It's huge. It was important for us not only to score on our first possession, but to take the lead, too."
The Bobcat defense took center stage at that point, knocking heads with the huge Tiger offensive line and holding Houston to 58 yards of offense in the first half.
"We changed our defense this week to adjust to the double-tight Wing T they run, and our kids did a good job of learning a new defense in a week's time," Webber said. "Then they went out and executed it."
Not content to watch their offensive mates have the only score of the first quarter, the Bobcat D logged points of their own.
After a booming punt from sophomore Brett Ward pinned the Tigers deep at their own 1-yard line, the Bobcat defensive line broke through on the next play from scrimmage and registered a sack in the end zone, resulting in a 2-point safety, putting Thayer on top 9-6 with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
Thayer opened the second quarter with their second offensive TD of the game as Eckman tossed his second touchdown pass of the half, this one a 20-yard strike to Ward after several penalties moved the Bobcats back from the Tiger 10-yard line, giving Thayer a first-and-goal from the 20. Tollenaar took the two-point conversion in to give Thayer a 17-6 lead with 8:00 left in the second quarter.
Ward wasn't finished as he intercepted a Tiger pass from his defensive back position on Houston's next offensive series. This was the first of five turnovers on the night for the Tigers as the Thayer defense kept Houston from building any kind of momentum.
The last Tiger drive of the half was a short one as well, with junior Bradley Harper recovering a fumble caused by a big hit from sophomore Dustin Gaines.
The Houston offense was held completely in check in the first half, logging just one first down and trailing the Bobcats 17-6 at halftime.
It was more of the same in the second half as the Bobcats posted one more score, with the defense sealing the win for Thayer.
On their first series on offense of the third quarter the Bobcats stitched together an 11-play, 43-yard drive, resulting in a touchdown on a quarterback draw by Ward at the 6:11 mark. Hunter's PAT gave Thayer a 24-6 lead.
The Tigers did manage to draw closer with a touchdown of their own the first time they touched the ball in the third. After this, it was all down hill for the Houston offense as their next three drives all resulted in fumbles recovered by Thayer.
Although it wasn't a picture-perfect display on the offensive side of the ball, the Bobcats did manage to escape Houston with a 24-14 win to go 2-0 on the young season.
"Even though we only played about 12 or 13 guys, and we were fatigued at the end, I still think we just wore them down," Webber said.In other District 5 action from Sept. 12, Marionville defeated Sherwood 35-10, Pierce City knocked off Sarcoxie 26-0, while Ash Grove suffered a 14-13 heartbreaking loss to Stockton.
The Bobcats return home Sept. 19 as they play host to Diamond with a game time of 7 p.m.