For the only time this football season, Highland Baptist got to experience the lights and the pageantry of a home football game Tuesday as the Bears took on Hanson’s junior varsity squad.
Not since August 17, when the Bears played host to Houma Christian in a scrimmage, had HBCS played a home football game and after six weeks on the road, celebrated a true homecoming on homecoming night. Highland scored twice in the second half to beat Hanson’s JV 14-6, improving to 3-3 on the season.
“It’s really awesome to have a home game and for the guys to be able to play in front of the home community,” said HBCS coach Artie Liuzza. “It was awesome the numbers (of fans) we had out here tonight watching these guys.”
Liuzza said that even though Highland has a great following when the team is on the road, it is nothing compared to the turnout Tuesday and it was great for the kids to see just how many fans support the football team.
Playing before a packed house, which included not only Highland’s fans but also Hanson’s fans on the opposing sideline, the Bears fought off a sluggish first half and scored twice in the second half on a quarterback sneak from Logan Jordan in the third quarter and a long touchdown run from Dain Usey in the fourth quarter to beat Hanson and get a measure of revenge for a 30-28 loss to HMS on Sept. 11.
Liuzza said the scoreless first half for HBCS really wasn’t indicative of how the team has played this year.
“In the first half we were working on some new things that we needed to get on film for the upcoming varsity game,” said the Highland Baptist coach. “We struggled a little bit because it was the first time we were doing it in action. We felt that tonight was a good night to do it because Hanson brings a pretty good defense.
“In the second half we went back to doing what we normally do and were able to get the ball into the end zone a couple of times.”
Playing four days after losing 51-6 to Covenant Christian, Highland got 86 yards on 16 carries from Zach “Cowboy” Gibbons and 78 yards and a touchdown from Usey while holding Hanson to under 150 yards and only five first downs.
Hanson’s only score in the game came with just over two minutes left as Tyler Hebert returned a kickoff to the HBCS 4-yard line and four plays later, Royce Norton, who led Hanson with 26 yards rushing, went over from a yard out.
Jordan scored Highland’s first touchdown of the night on a two-yard quarterback sneak in the third quarter.
The game was shortened to eight minute quarters because Hanson plays against Thursday night with its varsity and a majority of its JV at Berwick.
“It was a great game. I was proud that we were able to get the win and show what Highland is all about,” said Gibbons. “I don’t think that we were sluggish after playing at Covenant Friday. We did our best and we stayed strong.”
Gibbons also credited the Highland offensive line for paving the way for his yards Tuesday.
Usey’s 52 yard scoring run in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the contest.
“It’s nice that we get to win at home under the lights,” said Usey. “The run was great. The line blocked beautifully. I hit the hole hard, shook off one person and was off to the races.”
The HBCS junior running back also thought the team really didn’t have any dropoff after playing a game on only four days rest. He said the win took a little bit of the sting off the loss to Covenant Christian.
Highland’s final three games of the season are all on the road and will all be varsity contests as the Bears travel to Houma Oct. 19 to face Houma Christian, travel to Baker to face the Buffalos and then close out the season Nov. 2 in Lafayette against Lafayette Christian Academy.
“We’re going to play hard,” said Usey. “We want to end up in the top 32 (power rankings). Even though we can’t go to the playoffs this year, we want to show that we had the ability to make the playoffs.”