Hoover 26 - Massillon Jackson 7
October 25, 2008
Mother Nature no match for Howard
Junior back again is one-man wrecking crew
Todd Porter, Canton Repository
JACKSON TWP. There should have been a key ring tucked inside Erick Howard’s hip pad. He needed somewhere to keep the keys to the Hoover team bus.
What? He didn’t drive that, too?
Howard drove the Vikings to a 26-7 win against Jackson and preserved Hoover High School’s second straight outright Federal League football championship.
“On this night, what he did was impressive,” Jackson head coach Thom McDaniels said. “I had great regard and respect for the young man before this game, and that’s only grown.”
On this night, Mother Nature woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She pelted the players and coaches at Robert Fife Stadium with cold rain and wind all night. She turned the grass into brownie batter. Howard ran through it all.
Hoover’s junior manchild ran for 211 yards on 29 carries and scored three touchdowns. He also broke Jackson’s backs in the fourth quarter on a lightning-fast tackle for loss on fourth down.
The Polar Bears, down 19-7, had the ball near their own 40. McDaniels was forced to go for it on fourth down.
Howard shot through the line of scrimmage like a cannon ball on a wrecking mission. He tackled Jackson quarterback Max Paulus just after the ball was snapped and well before Paulus could hand it off.
“That kind of put the nail in coffin,” Hoover head coach Don Hertler Jr. said.
Not to be lost in the hubbub of another impressive night by Howard, though, is Hoover’s defense. The Viking defense shut out Jackson and hasn’t allowed a point in six quarters.
The score wasn’t indicative of how close Jackson was. Hoover needed a late score in the first half to tie the game at 7-7. That Howard touchdown was set up by a 47-yard screen pass from Brett Tulodzieski to Jeff Meek.
Howard’s night didn’t start like most. On his first carry, the ball squirted out of his arms like a water balloon. Wyatt Lloyd plucked it out of the air and returned the recovery 35 yards for a 7-0 Jackson lead.
“We were fortunate at halftime to be tied 7-7,” Hertler said. “They kicked out tails on both sides of the ball. … We talked at halftime about whether we wanted to be 9-1 or not, and if so, we had to go out and win the second half, and we won the second half.”
Did they ever.
Howard scored with 7:21 left in the third on a 38-yard run. It was a heady run in which Howard used a block by receiver Greg Beck and made a final cut off that to get into the end zone.
Tulodzieski then scored on a 45-yard run. He faked a handoff to Howard that suckered most of Jackson’s defense away from Tulodzieski running down the right sideline.
“It’s incredible to have a player like Erick on our team,” Tulodzieski said. “We’re an underdog in some of our games, but with Erick back there we always have a chance.”
Six plays after Howard’s impressive tackle for loss, he scored on an 11-yard run. His night was over. It was a long week.
In addition to carrying the ball 28 times a game for 10 games, averaging more than 180 yards a night and nearly scoring three times a week, Howard had a choir performance for Hoover’s choir.
Driving the team bus?
Give the kid time to get his CDL.
“He had 211 yards? Wow,” Hertler said. “I really didn’t know. Jackson did a nice job, we just had a couple better players than they had tonight.”
Howard, obviously, being one of them. Hoover will host a first-round playoff game next week. Chants of FLC! FLC! FLC! echoed off the visitors’ locker room Friday night. It was cold and wet. Hoover’s player barely seemed to feel the elements.
On nights like this, Mother Nature can be an equalizer.
Hoover, though, has Howard.
“He’s a pretty special football player,” Hertler said. “He’s a difference maker.”