By TIM CLEVELAND
With Warren G. Harding starting a backup quarterback due to injury and Howland playing an untested one, Friday night’s game devolved into an imitation of Woody Hayes’ old “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense at Ohio State.
While Harding threw just three passes all game and Howland tossed one, it was a pass thrown by a non-quarterback that made all the difference, as wide receiver Nate Walls took a handoff and threw a 26-yard completion to Marcus Boomer that set up the clinching score in a 21-16 Raiders victory.
“We’ve got to improve on that,” Harding coach Steve Arnold said of his team’s passing game. “Right now we’re doing what we do best and that’s run the football. I’m hoping that we grow and take a couple steps forward. I want to leapfrog based on this game because this tested our will.”
Howland coach Dominic Menendez said he had no regrets in not opening up his offense, although he said chances to score were missed.
“We had opportunities early on and we didn’t capitalize,” he said. “We put our defense in a hard spot and we’re not that good of a football team yet to be doing that.”
With Harding (1-1) facing a fourth and 11 on the Howland 31-yard line and leading 14-10, Walls’ completion to Boomer gave Harding a first and goal on the 5. Two plays later, Keemari Murry scored his third touchdown of the game for a 21-10 lead with 3:51 left.
Murry rushed for 200 yards on 21 carries for the Raiders.
“I’m going to stay humble and keep on going for the rest of the season,” said Murry, a standout on Harding’s track team in the 100 meters and 4x100 relay.
As a team, the Raiders rushed for 255 yards on 44 rushes.
“We’re kind of capable of doing that if we do what we’re supposed to do,” Arnold said. “Keemari showed a burst. We did some things but we’ve got to become more consistent in our run game.”
Down by 11, Howland (1-1) came right back as Jaquore Marrs took the ensuing kickoff back 78 yards for a score. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving the Tigers down by three with 3:38 to play.
Harding recovered the onside kick on the 40 and ran six plays to close out the game.
Murry got Harding off to a big start, as he rushed 80 yards for a touchdown on the Raiders’ second offensive play. He added TD runs of 46 and 7 yards.
With starting quarterback Lamar Carmichael out with an injury, backup Hasan Muhammad had a difficult time in his first varsity start. He was 1 of 2 for 13 yards passing and an interception was returned 47 yards for a touchdown by Victor Williams that gave Howland a 10-7 lead at halftime. Muhammad also lost a fumble. Overall, Harding fumbled four times and lost two of them.