Injuries are still plaguing Houston as it enters the Class 3A playoffs.
The Hilltoppers (7-3) will travel to Winona (8-2) on Friday with several players on the sidelines, including nine starters. The latest casualties are linebacker and tight end Gage Harrington (hip flexor) and defensive lineman Rish Alford (torn labrum).
Alford has missed the last two games, and whether he plays Friday will be a game-time decision. The senior leads the team with 11 sacks.
Despite all these injuries, coach Ty Hardin believes the changes they necessitated are starting to pay off.
“Our team right now would beat the crap out of the team we had for the first six games,” Hardin said.
Houston recently made a change at quarterback, with junior Derrion Pulphus taking over for sophomore Red Parker. Pulphus rushed for 112 yards and four touchdowns in Houston’s last game, a 56-7 win over Hatley two weeks ago.
“Derrion is kind of like a little pistol back there,” Hardin said. “He’s brought a different element to our team.”
Parker is still on the field, at receiver and outside linebacker. Also, Allen Robertson has been moved from linebacker to defensive line.
Calhoun City forward Quay Bailey won’t see the court until at least January.
The junior suffered an MCL sprain in June and has been trying to work her way back. She averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds and 6 steals per game last season in leading the Lady Wildcats to the Class 2A state semifinals.
“It’s real hard right now, but I’m going to keep working and working until I get back,” Bailey said.
Calhoun City has three other starters returning from last year, and coach Robert Fox is hopeful that some younger players seize their opportunity while Bailey is out.
“I think that’ll help us in the long run if we can find other kids that can play,” Fox said. “But just her presence, any time you take 19 points and 11 rebounds off the floor, that’s a difference.”
Da’Shun Berry is off to another strong start this season.
The Houlka senior, who signed with ICC last week, was named to the Journal’s second-team All-Area list last season after he led the state in scoring with 29.8 points per game.
Now through two games this year, Berry is averaging 38 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. In a win over Tupelo Christian on Tuesday, Berry had 43 points and a career-high 23 rebounds.
“As great of a year as he had last year, he still needed to shoot the ball better from the perimeter,” coach Seth Burt said. “He’s worked really hard at that all offseason. He’s still not making it at as high of a percentage as he’d like, but he’s hit more of those shots. And he’s still attacking the rim just like he did last year.”
Berry has made five 3-point shots already this year, and he is shooting 45 percent from the floor. Houlka (1-1) plays its next game on Monday against North Pontotoc.