Although it’s not really an unusual occurrence, it still amazes me how fast momentum can change in a high school football game.
When Haughton quarterback James David Almond hit P.J. Douglas on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 1:29 left in the first half, the Bucs had a 21-7 lead over the Byrd Yellow Jackets.
After a Byrd pass to the end zone was incomplete on the final play, Haughton went into the locker room with all the momentum in the world.
Then came the second-half kickoff.
Byrd’s Dominic Haggerty returned it 80 yards for a touchdown.
Even though Haughton still had a seven-point lead, you could feel the air go out of the Bucs.
When the Yellow Jackets stopped Haughton on its first possession and drove for the tying touchdown, the momentum had definitely switched in the Yellow Jackets’ favor.
Still, it was anybody’s ball game.
Byrd, though, capitalized on a fourth-quarter interception and won 27-21 in the District 1-5A opener for both teams.
“That kickoff return was big,” Haughton coach Rodney Guin said. “That killed the momentum right there.”
Byrd coach Mike Suggs agreed.
“We got that quick spark, that quick score. It brought life to us. Then we got a three and out right after that and drove it down and scored again and that changed the momentum of the ball game.”
After a strong first half, Haughton could do little on offense in the second. The Jackets put a lot of pressure on Almond, who was sacked five times.
Almond did have a solid game, though, completing 17 of 32 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored a touchdown on a sneak from the 1 on fourth down on Haughton’s first possession of the game.
Jerrod Craft turned a short pass into a 55-yard touchdown to give the Bucs a 14-7 lead.
Douglas had a nice night, catching eight passes for 76 yards.
The Bucs played without starting receiver Jermichael Bell, who was injured in the Fair Park game in Week 5. Bell doesn’t have a lot of catches on the season, but he is a big-play receiver. Guin said he could play in Friday’s game against Airline.
The Haughton defense had trouble stopping Byrd running back Xavier Long, who gained 166 yards on 20 carries.
But the defense gave Haughton a chance with some big stops in the fourth quarter. The offense couldn’t take advantage, though.
It was obvious how much the loss hurt the Haughton players as they gathered around Guin after the game.
“It needs to hurt them,” he said. “It tells us they really wanted to win so we’re good with that.”
Guin said Haughton can take something positive from the loss.
Byrd is one of the biggest schools in 5A and Haughton is one of the smallest.
“We’ve got to get to where we can play at the level of Byrd,” he said. “We played with them tonight. We were right there with them. We had a chance to win the game. We just didn’t get it done.”