CATEGORY: FOL High School Football
HED:Aberdeen's running game a prime concern for Houston
By Wayne Clements
Rusty Funk has looked at the films, he's looked at the numbers. He's been duly impressed.
Aberdeen's running backs are a scary bunch. And Funk's Houston Hilltoppers have to try to stop them tonight.
"They've got three hosses in the backfield," Funk said. "We've got to play aggressive defense ... 'cause those young 'uns will run all over us."
Those young 'uns, as Funk calls them, are wing backs Billy Blanchard and Michael Irons and fullback Nathan Hodges. Together they've rushed for 1,944 yards, an average of 277 yards per game.
When Houston lines up against Aberdeen tonight, running backs will be the main course, with a side dish of passing thrown in just for variety. Houston brings a strong running game of its own to the table with Chico Chandler (774 yards, 14 TDs) and Anthony Johnson (574 yards, 7 TDs).
On the line is a chance to remain tied for the lead in Division 1-4A. Houston (6-1 overall, 1-0 division
) and Aberdeen (3-4, 1-0) share the division lead with Itawamba AHS (6-0, 1-0). IAHS plays at West Point.
"We're a little bit on a roll and we want to keep it that way," Funk said of Houston's six-game winning streak. "(Aberdeen) is a little bit of a spread out offense, but with the backs they have, if they find a crease, they're gone."
Houston carried a running reputation into Friday's win over West Point, but it was the arm of quarterback Russell Dendy who stole the show. Dendy completed 10 of 16 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-7 Hilltopper victory.
Overall, Dendy has completed 24 of 53 for 604 yards and eight touchdowns.
"We just haven't thrown a great deal," Funk said. "We haven't had to. I'm not going to throw the ball just to show that I can."
In other key division games, Bruce (3-4) plays at Nettleton (2-3) in a Division 2-2A game and Mantachie (3-3) plays at Belmont (6-1) in a Division 1-2A game.
Bruce, the defending Class 2A state champion, started slowly but has won its last two games, a narrow win over Falkner and a 27-0 shutout to open it division schedule against Coffeeville.
Mantachie, 1-1 in the division, and Belmont, 2-1) both trail division unbeatens Baldwyn and Booneville. A second loss in the division would be tough to overcome without a lot of help.
This game matches one of the area's stingiest defenses Belmont has given up just 56 points and one of the best running attacks. Mantachie runs the ball almost exclusively, with tailback Adam Lindsey having rolled up almost 1,000 yards already.
"They've got a great tailback who's going to be picking up a lot of yards a game," Belmont coach Philip Reeves said. "They don't make many mistakes.
"We've had trouble with their defense the last three years. To me, when you say defense, Malachite is one of the first things I think of."