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HOUSTON, Miss. (WCBI) — 2012 laid the foundation at Houston.

Those Hilltoppers were led by superstar seniors Chris Jones and Sharone Wright, and they won 11 games. No team in Houston High history has won that many.

Aug 21 Pontotoc home
Aug 28 Calhoun City away
Sept 4 Okolona away
Sept 11 East Webster home
Sept 18 Choctaw Co home
Sept 25 Eupora away
Oct 2 Caledonia* home
Oct 9 Kosciusko* away
Oct 16 Leake Central* away
Oct 23 Louisville* away
Oct 30 Noxubee Co* home
*District games

Fast forward three years to the present day, and the 2015 Hilltoppers have the feel of that 2012 team with 14 seniors returning and plenty of youth growing up.

“We’ve been young the last several years,” head coach Billy Cook said. “Finally, we’re counting on this year to be a pay-off year. We’re bring back eight to nine starters on both sides of the ball and they have a lot of experience built up. Most of those guys are three and four year starters. They’ve been through the battles and know what to expect when they line up on Fridays.

“It feels like my freshman year when we had all those guys as seniors,” senior Denver McQuary said. ‘It’s nothing new to us since we got a taste of it our senior year. Now we just have a little reassurance on our side.”

McQuary is one of the many story-lines going into the 2015 season at Houston: he’s just two interceptions away from tying the late Steve McNair’s career interception record, which is 27.

He’s a member of a strong senior presence that maintains a special chemistry, which has shown in Houston’s off-season workouts and practices.

Couple that with the talent returning on both sides of the ball, and this could be that special Houston team once again.

“I love all of them,” senior J.J. Brownlee said. “They’re my brothers. They keep me going. Every time we fall, we pick each other up and encourage one another. We just get back at it.”

“The fact I get to play with these guys one last time is surreal, McQuary said. “It’s my last year and I’ve been playing with these guys since 7th grade. Having newcomers come up and join us is great. The chemistry with this team right now is just amazing.”

But this year, it all comes down to expectations for Houston: the Toppers haven’t missed the playoffs since 2010.

That means just getting to the postseason won’t be enough for a senior class that wants to go out on top in their final go-around.

“We’ve been to the playoffs and we want to get the ring,” McQuary said. “To be honest with you just getting to the playoffs won’t be good enough.”

“We just need to go out and leave everything out there on the field,” senior Tay Bowden said. “Play like it’s your last play. You’ll never play again.”

“The playoffs are still our goal,” coach Cook said. “With our division it will be tough but we’re planning on trying to make the playoffs. It will be our fifth year in a row if we do it and that’s become our standard goal at Houston.”

The Toppers will begin the season at home versus Pontotoc before hitting the road for back to back away games at Calhoun City and Okolona.

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