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Hoover 31 - Austintown Fitch 20

October 9, 2009

Hoover’s Howard sets Stark County rushing record

Chris Beaven, Canton Repository

NORTH CANTON Shattering a county record, breaking a school record and being crowned Homecoming King didn’t come close to completing Erick Howard’s night Friday.

The Hoover High School senior wanted something far more important.

“I wanted the win. That’s all I wanted,” Howard said.

One final big run by Howard helped deliver that win — 31-20 over Fitch — and complete a memorable night for Ohio’s reigning Mr. Football.

Howard became Stark County’s career rushing leader and Hoover’s career scoring leader in the third quarter, not long after being named Homecoming King at halftime.

“I shouldn’t have won that,” Howard said. “Luke LePage should’ve been the Homecoming King. I voted for him.”

But there’s little doubt that Howard earned the county’s all-time rushing title.

His 240 yards in near-constant rain pushed his career total to 5,266, surpassing the 5,177 by McKinley’s Morgan Williams from 2004-06.

“I told my line we need to get this record, because this record is about all of us,” Howard said. “All of my yards are their yards. And it’s been all the linemen I’ve played with from my freshman year up to now. I couldn’t have done any of this without them.

“And the quarterbacks and receivers, too. Everybody. I’ve never seen receivers block the way these guys do.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Howard is pretty special, too. He shed tacklers all night — like he does most games — in helping the Vikings take charge early and hang on late.

“We weren’t going to be denied,” said Howard, whose fourth touchdown run, an 11-yarder with 1:21 left, sealed the win. “We lost a tough one last week, and we know we have to win out (to win the Federal League). It’s do or die. For me, it’s a playoff game every week the rest of the way.”

Howard ran with that purpose from the outset, carrying the ball on Hoover’s first nine offensive plays to produce a 57-yard touchdown drive. He scored on a 2-yard run on a third-and-one.

Hoover pushed the lead to 14-0 with a 51-yard TD drive to open the second quarter. Howard ran it six of nine plays, going the final 18 yards on a fourth-and-one burst through the left side. He ran over two defenders on his sprint to the end zone.

Defensively, Hoover shut down the high-powered Fitch offense much of the first half.

“Our defense fought their tails off … to hold them to 20 points with the athletes they have,” Hoover head coach Don Hertler Jr. said.

The Falcons ended the first quarter with just 14 yards and didn’t pick up a first down until seven minutes remained in the first half. But the Falcons, who entered averaging 40 points a game, scored in the final seconds of the half to cut Hoover’s lead to 14-7.

When Will Mahone stunned Hoover with an 84-yard TD run on Fitch’s first offensive play of the second half, the game was tied.

The Vikings came right back with a 52-yard TD drive, mixing in some other stuff. Quarterback Brett Tulodzieski had a 12-yard run to ignite the drive. He also had key 12-yard completion to Joey Housos.

“I thought we mixed it up pretty well considering the weather,” Hertler said. “But we’re a run-first team, and that sets everything else up for us.”

An 8-yard run by Howard on the next play made him the county’s career rushing leader. He ended the drive on the next play by taking a defender with him into the end zone on a 4-yard run. That score with 6:45 left in the third put the Vikings ahead and allowed him to pass Jeff Logan’s school scoring record of 426 points.

When Fitch botched the ensuing squib kickoff, Hoover recovered at the Falcon 46. A 33-yard run by Howard set up A.J. Sarbaugh’s 25-yard field goal for a 24-14 lead.

The Falcons got within 24-20 early in the fourth before Howard’s fourth TD on his 40th carry closed out the game. It gives him 436 career points as he moves closer to the county’s career scoring record. Northwest’s Scott Weber scored 446 points from 2002-05.

“He’s a great competitor,” Hertler said of Howard. “He doesn’t like to lose. If everyone didn’t like to lose like him, we wouldn’t lose on Friday nights.”

Source: fridaynightohio.com