WASILLA — The Houston Hawks hit the locker room trailing rival Homer at halftime Friday night. Despite being behind, Houston head coach Glenn Nelson said he saw something from his players that every coach wants to see.
His squad was ready to battle. Houston, trailing 14-6 at halftime, scored 16 unanswered points to score a 22-14 win over the Mariners at Houston High School.
“They’ve got a lot of fight in them,” Nelson said of his players via cellphone. “They didn’t even blink when it was 14-6. They didn’t care what the score was. They were excited for the third quarter.”
Noah Griffeth scored twice in the second half and kicker Aspen Ruth booted a 32-yard field goal to help the Hawks rally for the victory. The big second half helped Houston overcome a slow start.
“We made a bunch of mistakes early on, and their (offensive line) was pushing us around,” Nelson said. “It was refreshing to see the kids at halftime say, don’t worry, we’ve got it.”
Nelson said a number of athletes also stepped up to play big roles for the Hawks. After an injury in the backfield, Nelson said Houston moved center Malaki Barrett to fullback, and Barrett’s blocking helped power the Houston running game. On defense, Reed Graham moved to nose tackle to help the Hawks have more success against Homer’s big offensive line. Nelson also noted Wyatt Mulhaney, who finished with seven tackles, including four sacks, in the win.
Homer took a early 7-0 lead in the game. Houston cut into the Homer advantage with Robert Ritter’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Dakota Watson. Homer added another first-half score to take the 14-6 lead into the break.
Homer and Houston, both formerly of the medium schools Northern Lights Conference, are new members of Alaska’s small schools class. Houston is part of the Aurora Conference, while Homer is now in the Peninsula Conference. Nelson said Friday’s victory is big on a number of levels. In addition to starting off the season by taking a step in the right direction, Houston’s victory over Homer could have potential playoff implications, Nelson said.
Nelson also said the win over Mariners gives his players confidence when facing future playoff-caliber small schools teams.