Soaking in how bad it felt to lose by three touchdowns to Germantown on Aug. 24, Houston’s football team played up to its motto against Arlington: Relentless.
“I felt like we played that way tonight. I told them all week adversity is going to make you or break you. I asked them to fight. I felt like we came out last week and got it taken to us. I told them that is not us. We have to be stronger and tougher. I think we took a big step tonight,” said Houston Head Coach James Thomas after the Mustangs defeated Arlington 48-21 on Friday in Arlington. “It’s a huge win for our program. Starting off 1-0, you can’t do any better than that.”
The Mustangs are 1-0 in Region 7-6A, 2-1 overall.
Chris Colebank, a senior linebacker and running back, said, “I can’t remember when we were 1-0 in the region. I can’t remember the last time we were 2-1.”
Houston senior linebacker and fullback Will Gusmus said, “We haven’t had a big win in two years and we still have to fix a lot of things, but this win will help us bounce back after the loss to Germantown.”
Houston got off blocks and got more players to the football, said Thomas.
“Arlington is a great team. They have a great back (Kenny Walker). They have a good defense. We felt like our guys up front really took control of the game.”
Calling his offensive line “incredible,” Houston running back Lincoln Pare had a career game, topping his previous career game against Germantown.
Pare had 408 all-purpose yards and scored five touchdowns. He rushed for 279 yards on 26 carries, averaging 11 yards per carry. He caught a 78-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ethan Burns and had kick return yardage of 51 yards.
“Lincoln is the best running back in the city and he’s only a junior,” said Gusmus.
What fueled Pare’s breakaway runs of 62, 78, 74, 66 yards, “is my team and how bad we wanted this as a whole. I wanted to do everything I could to help my team win. It feels amazing (career game) but it’s not about me. It’s about my team. If we win, I’m happy. We’re a family and the win is what matters.
“This game makes a statement that you can’t count Houston out of anything. What surprised me is the amount of passion our team came out with. We played together for one goal and that’s the W.”
Pare had a “heck of a game,” said Thomas. “He put it on the ground once but he’ll get that corrected.”
“Lincoln will make you have a headache. Sometimes you don’t know where he is going but then all of a sudden he finds a way to get to the end zone from anywhere on the field. He can turn a bad play into a good one in a hurry.”
Burns added a 38-yard touchdown on a keeper. Colebank had a scoop and score, grabbing a fumble after Jordan Monk batted down a pass. Colebank ran 40 yards for a touchdown that gave Houston a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Houston had 514 yards total offense with 407 rushing, 107 passing. The Mustangs averaged 10.1 yards per play.
The Tigers (2-1, 0-1) had 393 yards offense with Walker gaining 167 of their 206 rushing yards and Rhodes Carson passing for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 11 of 29 completions. The Tigers averaged 6.0 yards per play.
Carson threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Devin Chandler in the second quarter.
The touchdown tied the game at 14-14 with 4:05 left.
Houston took a 7-0 lead on Pare’s 1-yard touchdown after he had run 62 yards to the Arlington 1. Nick Anewalt kicked his first of six PATs.
“They came out and punched us first,” said Arlington head coach Adam Sykes. “We knew they were big, physical, had a good running back, had a good run game so we knew that we were going to have to be very sound to stop that. They were better tonight than we were in all phases of the game. They took charge of the line on both sides of the ball and that was the difference in the game. We will learn from it and be better.
“We had our chances in the first half to make it a close game. We have third-and-long and they score on an 80-yard run. The 75-yard screen pass (Burns threw to Pare) before halftime was a momentum killer. That takes the breath out of you. We dropped a couple of balls here and there that could have been big plays. I know that it is a cliché but it is a game of inches. Sometimes you are on the right side of that. We weren’t tonight.”
Colebank’s defensive touchdown was the game’s turning point, said Gusmus.
Sykes said, “It was a close game. You can’t do those thing. Whether it was a fumble or not, they called a fumble. You can’t let the ball out of your hands. This is what happens and we put the ball on the ground. Whether he (Chandler) caught it our not, they picked it up and scored. In big games, plays like that can mean momentum swings.”
With 4.53 speed, Colebank raced down the sideline for the TD.
He called a defensive touchdown is a “lot more rare. I think it could be a big change in momentum a lot more than an offensive touchdown. A touchdown is a touchdown, anything that helps the team win.”
Colebank’s 38-yard run in the fourth quarter set up the final touchdown. Colebank ran to the 5 before Pare scored to give the Mustangs a 48-21 lead with 1:48 left. He rushed for 93 yards on 9 carries.
“You can’t do anything without that offensive line, all credit to the O-line,” said Colebank. “Give credit to Coach (Raheem) Shabazz (Houston strength coach). We have been working with him offseason. He has helped us with cutting, being more explosive. He has helped the whole team with that.”
Pare called Shabazz “transforming.”
Pare said that Colebank is “an unbelievable player. He loves and plays for his team more than anyone and he for sure is a huge leader on this team.”
Thomas said of Colebank, “We always talk about being a smart football player, always hustling to the ball because you never know when it is going to make a play that is going to make a difference. Chris was right there because he hustled to the ball. He turned it into six points. He played through the whistle and made a big play.”
Colebank said, “God is leading the way. This team can definitely do some great things like go far in the playoffs and all credit to God. I wouldn’t be anywhere without Him.”
Houston assistant coach Shawn Abel said establishing the running game in the third quarter was a game-changer.
“It got them off their rhythm and put us in ours. We got our confidence up. The defense did well. We worked on it all week. We are really proud of them. When you get up, it’s easier to play defense.”
Burns said, “Our defense had to play lockdown and they did.”
Challenging the Mustangs to be the more physical team, Thomas said they were because of good practices.
“Will Gusmus played really well. Ryan Bullock did really well. Jordon Monk gave us a valiant effort on a sore ankle. Two freshmen, Will Stegall and Ben Stegall (twin brothers) played really well. Landon Schmidt is a stalwart in there. We can always count on him. He is going to give you everything he’s got.”
Offensive/defensive lineman Kip Frankland had sacks and tackles for loss.
“Kip stood out,” said Gusmus.
Said Pare, “The defensive line was amazing. Our linebackers played lights out, Will Gusmus, Ryan Bullock, Landon Schmidt, Ben Stegall and Chris Colebank are some dogs.”
Colebank and Schmidt were in on a sack in the first quarter and Gusmus and Dion Harris also assisted for a sack in the fourth. Harrison Wilkes and Bullock had a tackle for loss in the third quarter.
“You have to get more people to the ball, swarm and get all over them,” said Thomas.
The Tigers had stand outs.
“There are always kids that play well even in losses and there is no exception tonight,” said Sykes. “You can never say everybody played bad. We played bad as a team in all phases but there were still guys that played their tails off and had really good games individually. Jorge Avalos (defensive back) had a great game defensively.”
Avalos had numerous pass breakups and a 16-yard interception in the third quarter. Sykes also praised linebacker Mitchell Faulkner for his good game. Walker led the team with 4 tackles.
Adding to the list of those turning in good games, Sykes said, were Chandler and Carson, who stayed composed despite being rushed.
“Rhodes is a good player. He has to get through his reads, manage the game and he will be fine. Overall we have to shore some things up on our offensive and defensive line, especially offensive, to give us more time to throw the ball when we need to.”
Carson loved the fight in his team.
“Nobody gave up tonight. That’s a great feeling. Even though we lost, it’s always good to see everybody still stay in the game trying to get that win. We have great potential with our offense,” he said.
He expects more aggressiveness from the defensive line.
“This loss will bring our defense together more and bring our team together as one. We started off slow defensive wise but had a good couple of stops. They got a score on a breakaway. It was hit-or-miss with the momentum. We did great on offense then turn around and have a little stutter. I feel like we will correct that and start clicking more than we are,” said Carson.
A 37-yard TD run by Walker gave the Tigers their first score in the second quarter. Conner Ford kicked the PAT, his first of three, pulling Arlington to within 14-7.
After Houston’s R.H. Frankland caught an 11-yard pass to the Tigers 49, Pare ran 43 yards before his fumble.
Walker ran 18 yards for a first down and later got to the Tigers 41. From there Carson found Chandler for his second longest touchdown throw of the season. He threw a 63-yard touchdown against St. George’s.
Chandler caught 4 passes for 108 yards. Walker had 3 catches for 51 yards, Ethan Woodland 1 for 11, Avalos 2 for 10 yards.
Pare’s touchdown pass from Burns gave the Mustangs a 21-14 halftime lead.
Before half, Carson had a 26-yard pass to Walker to the Houston 40. Chandler also had a 16-yard reception from Carson to the 26.
Pare’s 74-yard touchdown run with 7:08 left in the third quarter made it 28-14.
Colebank got four first downs in the third quarter, including three straight. He ran 17 yards, 10 yards and 11 yards that got to the Tigers 48.
Avaolos ended the drive with his 16-yard interception. Pare’s 66-yard run with 11:33 left in the fourth got Houston to the Arlington 7. He later scored a 4-yard touchdown with 10:06 left. Anewalt made it 35-14.
Burns’ keeper TD extended the lead to 42-14 with 7:16 left.
The Tigers then started an 80-yard drive. Walker ran 19 yards then 21 yards before he caught a 24-yard acrobatic touchdown pass from Carson. Conner’s kick cut the lead to 42-21.
“The last touchdown all I was thinking about was scoring. I did what I had to do to get into the end zone. It was great,” said Walker of his 12th touchdown.
“God is amazing. That is who I give all the glory to. This season would not be going so well for me if it was not for Him.”
Thomas said of Walker, “Kenny is a great back. To stop a kid like that you have to get more than one person to the football and you can never relent.”
Sykes said that teams are going to game plan for Walker.
“We are going to have to do a better job of doing little things right on the line and all-around on both sides of the ball.”
Arlington center Carter Berg said, “Kenny is a great player. He’s also a great teammate. He wants the ball so I don’t feel like we rely on him necessarily, I feel like we are just using our best assets. He’s a great guy. Avalos and Carson are both great players as well. They’re always saying ‘Good job and keep your heads up.’
“It took us a minute to learn their defense but once we did we moved the ball pretty well. Houston’s defense was hard to block because it always seemed like they had one more person than we did. We can’t rely on one or two persons like we did previously. We have to make it more of a team effort.”
Colebank was on the Tigers 43 when he made his 38-yard run that set up Pare’s touchdown that gave Houston a 48-21 lead. A mishandled snap kept Anewalt from kicking the PAT.
Perry Tyrese rushed for 26 yards for Arlington. Ford averaged 33.7 yards per punt, including a 40-yarder. Anewalt had 2 punts that averaged 52 yards. He had one punt of 36 yards. Chandler had 66 yards in kick returns including one for 54-yards..
Frankland had 21 yards on 2 receptions while Grayson Hitt had one catch for 8 yards. The Tigers’ Dontavius Slaton had 3 tackles and had a team-leading 4 assists. Kenneth Payne had 2 tackles for loss. Garrett Lamkins had 3 tackles, Faulkner 2, Thomas Maclin 2, Chandler 2.
Offensively for Houston “our running game had to be strong and it was. We needed to complete easy passes to keep them honest,” said Burns.
Colebank said, “When we do what the coaches say good things will happen. We had more trust in our teammates.”
Relentless is also the way the Tigers, who play at Southwind at 7 p.m. Friday, want to pla, said lineman Josh Jones.
“That is what we will have to do from now on. Collectively we had a bad game. We went up against a really good team that is going to be competing this year for a state championship in my opinion. They have a really good defense. When bad games like this happen you have to bounce back.”
Colebank expects the Mustangs, who host Bolton at 7 p.m. Friday, to remain humble.
“We have to make it really clear that we can’t get a big head. We just want to win games. We still have a lot of big games ahead. It’s great win. I’m happy for the team but we have to stay focused and not let our egos explode,” he said.
Pare said, “What will keep us going is our determination to win and our relentless mindset that we have as a whole team. Everyone has a role.”