October 11, 2009 3:22:00 PM
CALEDONIA -- The building process continues for Buz Boyer.
The good thing about playing in Class 4A, Region 4, District 4 is Boyer, the Houston High School football coach, can test his Hilltoppers against some of the state''s premier programs.
With Noxubee County, the defending Class 4A champion, and Louisville, which won the Class 3A championship and moved up a classification, in the district, Boyer can show his players what it takes for them to build a successful program.
Boyer hopes those lessons pay dividends for the Hilltoppers later this season and help them emerge as one of the district''s four teams that advances to the playoffs.
Shawn Wright helped Houston take a step in that direction Saturday.
The senior quarterback threw three touchdowns in the first half to lead Houston to a 50-0 victory against Caledonia.
Wright (5 of 6, 179 yards) connected with Devoris Ivy on touchdowns on 42 and 43 yards and with Will Kirby on a 60-yard scoring strike to help the Hilltoppers (2-6, 1-1 district) build a 34-0 halftime lead.
The lead grew to 50-0 in the third quarter and started the running clock.
Caledonia slipped to 0-7 and 0-2.
For Boyer, whose team lost to Louisville 48-28 last week, the victory was a positive as his team fights for playoff positioning.
"We realize Noxubee and Louisville are there at the top, but if you can win two of the other three you can make the playoffs," Boyer said. "We have given them that goal. Even though you have the big ones up there, making the playoffs is not out of the question by any means."
Boyer was pleased with how the Hilltoppers played against the Wildcats. The performance came one week after a 73-7 loss to Aberdeen.
With 12 returning seniors from last season, the Hilltoppers have equaled their total of wins last season when they went 2-8. The fight for the final two playoff positions figures to come down to Houston, Kosciusko, and Amory.
Houston has games remaining against both teams, and Boyer feels his team is getting better every game.
"We''re so young that the kids are starting to grow up a little bit," Boyer said. "We have 40-something freshmen and sophomores. Some of them are starting to play like juniors and sophomore instead of freshmen and sophomores. We gained a little bit of confidence last week against Louisville. They realize we can play with these folks."
Houston capitalized on a failed punt exchange between the snapper and the punter and took over at the Caledonia 14 with 10 minutes, 4 seconds to play in the first quarter. It took two plays for senior running back Reggie Buchanan to score from 14 yards. Emmitt Dendy''s extra point made it 7-0.
Caledonia''s Norris Harris had a sack on third down and Trey Lancaster and William Breen stopped a pass play well short of first down on Houston''s next drive, but the Confederates couldn''t move the ball.
Caledonia managed just 40 yards rushing (60 total) in the first half.
Wright threw touchdown passes on three of his team''s next four drives to help push the lead to 27-0 with six minutes remaining before halftime.
A Caledonia fumble on its first play on the next drive led to a 124-yard run by Ladarius May that helped make it 34-0.
Mistakes dogged Caledonia throughout the game. The Confederates built one of their longest drivea just before halftime. Quarterback Brandon Bell guided the team on a nine-play drive that pushed the ball to the Houston 33, but a sack ended that drive as time expired.
Things didn''t get much better in the second half.
Another fumble on a kickoff led to another touchdown. Caledonia also allowed a safety when the snapper snapped the ball over punter William Breen''s head and Breen kicked the ball out of bounds.
"They just have to keep giving great effort," Caledonia coach David Boykin said. "I didn''t think we played with a very good effort today, and that is going to be the results when we don''t play hard."
Boykin praised the play of Cole Reed-Wood, who rushed for 43 yards on 11 carries in the second half. The freshman running back ran hard between the tackles and gave the effort Boykin hopes his entire team will show in its final three games of the season.
"Cole was a bright spot," Boykin said. "He ran the ball well. He has a bright future here. He just gives you great effort. I am very disappointed in our effort. I guess that falls back on me as head coach not getting the kids ready to play."
Boykin said his offense continues to mature and get the handle on its quick-strike passing attack. Bell completed 4 of 16 passes for 24 yards and missed on at last four plays that could have gone for big yards, including two to Edmund Elizenbery in the end zone.
The Caledonia wide receivers also didn''t look like they helped Bell much by not finishing routes or coming back to the football on balls that were short.
One positive for Caledonia is it could have running back Gavin Coleman back. Coleman was injured on the opening series against Hamilton on Sept. 25 and missed his second consecutive game.
But Boykin knows the return of one player isn''t going to change his team''s fortunes. He believes a better effort from all of his players will help the team have a better opportunity to win, regardless of the opponent.
"I thought the kids should have come out fired up and ready to play," Boykin said. "We just didn''t do it. Ain''t nothing going to work when you don''t get the effort you deserve. I thought we had a spark with Reed-Wood, and he is going to play more and more. All we ask is to hit a hole and hit it as hard as he can, and he did that."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.