By matthew Peaslee
Of course De’Veon Smith rushed for more than 100 yards with multiple touchdowns. And it was inevitable that Eric Lockney would hook up with Brendan Cope for big plays downfield.
The Howland offense has been putting up points and making headlines all season, but in Friday’s 26-7 win over Poland at Dave Pavlansky Field, the Tigers’ defense made the difference.
“Our defense did play four quarters,” Howland coach Dick Angle said. “We needed a game like we had in the first half against Beaver Local. Our defense inspired the offense here.”
In that Week 6 game against the Beavers, the Tigers (6-1, 3-0 All-American Conference American Division) pitched a shutout in the first two quarters and against the Bulldogs, they didn’t allow a score until the waning fourth-quarter minutes.
“They didn’t let our offense do anything,” Poland coach Mark Brungard said. “That created a little bit of confusion and we couldn’t execute. They’re based on moving their front and bringing guys from one gap into another gap.
“You practice that stuff, but until you see it ... they do stuff that we weren’t ready for. We couldn’t block it. We tried a little bit of everything we had.”
Poland (4-2, 2-2) received the opening kickoff and on the game’s first play, TK Fortson forced Ross Gould to fumble and it was recovered by Andrew Rolfe.
“Coaches always talk about setting the tone on the very first play of the game,” said Fortson, a junior who had eight tackles and three sacks. “That’s what we did. They’re a tough opponent and they were out to get blood right away. We came and battled for the W.
“There definitely was a size disadvantage, but we have the speed to get past them.”
Smith, a Michigan recruit, had scoring runs of 19, 13 and 5 yards. He finished with 146 yards on 24 carries. That brings Smith’s total to 1,166 on the year. He has 18 touchdowns.
“For the most part, you feel you’re doing good against him, then boom — he takes one for 40 or 50 yards and that Cope kid is a difference-maker,” Brungard said.
Cope caught five passes for 157 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown grab.
“I had a stiff arm and headed for the sidelines,” Cope said. “The whole game we were going deep, then we’d hit them with the quick stuff to keep them off-balance.”
Lockney completed 9 of 15 passes for 169 yards.
“He’s throwing the ball as well as any player in the area,” Angle said. “Even though De’Veon, Cope and Lockney are big-time players, it takes 45 guys at Howland to win football games. That’s what we preach.”
Gould carried 20 times for 102 yards, but Poland had just 41 yards on the ground in the first half. Jake Wolfe threw for 84 yards. Tyler Evan and Anthony Marchionda each caught three passes for 48 and 34 yards, respectively.