‘Why not us?’: Houston football making history while honoring loved ones
Every team puts 11 guys out on the field, but the Houston Hilltoppers have a few more.
“We know those three guys are on the field with us,” Houston head coach Baylor Dampeer said.
The three extra Hilltoppers that make up the saying “All 14” are the loved ones they’ve lost. 15-year-old Will Anderson passed away in 2018, then sophomore Jamarcus Hall died last November just before their first playoff game and assistant coach Q Lewis died in a car crash in April.
“It’s been hard but we know all 14, they’re up above with us,” junior Will Echoles said.
They’ve coped the best way they know how — just keep playing. That’s why this season was dedicated to those three.
When Houston lost Hall shortly before its first round playoff game against Senatobia, playing without him just didn’t feel right. They went on to play the game, but fell. It was a loss that didn’t compare to the one they had experienced off the field.
Now this season, the Hilltoppers managed to make it to the third round of the playoffs where they were met by an undefeated Itawamba team. They went into that game as the underdog, but that’s where the other team motto comes in: “Why not us?”
“That’s what coach Lewis said, ‘Why not us?'” junior quarterback Steele Brooks said. “What makes us different than anybody else? So every time we say it, we just think of them. Do it for them.”
The Hilltoppers had trailed the whole game to the Indians. They had the ball with just three minutes left on the clock, down two points. That’s when the Houston crowd erupted in a “Why not us?” chant.
Soon after, JJ McCoy scored the winning touchdown to send Houston to the 4A north half championship for the first time in school history.
“We’ve been through a lot, so it’s bigger than football for us,” junior Jalen Washington said. “We just came out and was ready to play. We’re ready to play anybody.”
The next challenge is Louisville on Friday — with a trip to the state championship on the line.
“Louisville is obviously gonna be picked everywhere, but why not us? Why can’t we get it done?” Dampeer said.
But before that game, Washington plans on visiting Hall’s grave like he often does. This time, with an extra special message:
“Just keep continuing to look over us so we can come out on top Friday night so we can go make history.”