By Jim Flick
Showing little mercy for a traditional rival, Howland High both ran hard and contained Niles’ offense in a 27-0 victory Friday night.
Howland (8-0, 4-0 All-American Conference-Red Division) was led by De’Veon Smith, who gained 139 yards on 23 carries and scored all three of the Tigers’ touchdowns.
Smith entered the game as the area’s leading rusher, and has now gained 1,372 yards on 196 carries.
Howland’s other points came from the foot of kicker Chris McClearn, a senior who kicked field goals of 35 and 32 yards, and connected on three extra points.
Besides Smith, seven other Howland backs combined to gain another 144 yards for Howland on 25 carries Friday. The Tigers also gained 75 yards on the passing of quarterback Tim Parana, who completed 4 of 8 passes for 75 yards.
Howland’s defense was dominant, limiting the Red Dragons to 103 yards in total offense.
For Niles (3-5, 0-2 AAC Red), the ground attack was led by senior Reggie Wells, who gained only 21 yards on 10 carries. Before the Howland game, Wells had had successful season, gaining 715 yards on 110 attempts.
Niles’ running game gained only 21 yards on 46 carries.
Howland coach Dick Angle said his team “needed to come out and have a spectacular performance all-around” against Niles after escaping with a 20-18 win last week against Poland.
“The undefeated season is nice to have, but it puts a bulls eye on your back,” said Angle.
“Offensively, I think we were pretty dominant,” he added. However, he complained that “some passes should have been caught.” Angle also said the Tigers special teams played well.
But Angle saved his highest praise for the defense. “Our defense has really come alive. It’s taken the burden off the offense.
“Our defense goes right to fundamentals — we tackle. We take pride in tackling and tackling well.”
Angle named senior linebacker Andy Davis as the leader of the defense, adding, “Everyone played well, everyone did their job.”
Niles’ offense put some spark into the game early. The Red Dragons took the opening kickoff, but their initial drive seemed about the end quickly. After gaining only four yards on the first series of downs, Niles lined up for a punt — but they faked the punt and quarterback Zack Bailey sprinted 14 yards for a first down.
The Niles offense was again stymied and this time punted for real.
Howland responded with a seven-play, 62-yard drive that ended with Smith’s 5-yard run for his first touchdown. McClearn put his first point of the night on the board by kicking the extra point and Howland led 7-0.
The only scoring in the second quarter came on McLearn’s 32-yard field goal.
The second half brought more scoring by Smith and McLearn. In the third quarter, Smith smashed 3 yards into the end zone, and McClearn added the extra point before kicking a 35-yard field goal.
In the fourth quarter, Smith dashed 9 yards into the end zone. McLearn kicked the extra point, the final scoring of the night.