Niles 0-8 for first time in its history
By Steve ruman
With Howland senior quarterback Samari Dean sidelined due to an injury, running back Jackson Deemer was called on to carry the load Thursday when the Tigers traveled to Bo Rein Stadium.
Deemer not only carried the load, he at times carried Niles defenders while lifting Howland to a 42-3 win over the Red Dragons.
Deemer ran through, over and around the Niles defense, racking up 231 yards on just 16 carries. The senior had touchdown runs of 8, 51 and 76 yards.
With the win — Howland’s fourth straight — the Tigers improve to 5-3 (2-1 All American Conference Red Tier). Niles falls to 0-8 for the first time in school history.
“Coach told me before the game that I’d have to step up a little bit extra tonight, I just went out and did my job like I’m always asked to do,” Deemer said. “It was awesome to go out there and be able to run like that. I made some good cuts, but the offensive line really made it work tonight. Most of the night I didn’t have to do too much, our line was outstanding.”
As a team, Howland amassed 386 rushing yards on 34 carries.
Early on, it was the Niles offense which looked like it might have a productive ground game. The Red Dragons took the opening possession and marched 70 yards on 11 plays — all on the ground. Robbie Savin accounted for 65 of the yards on seven carries. However, the Red Dragons had to settle for a Chase Sudzina 37-yard field goal.
“Our defense worked pass all week, and Niles came out and ran it and caught us off-guard,” said Howland coach Dom Menendez. “However, we made adjustments and our guys responded, played hard and got the job done.”
Niles’ 3-0 lead was short-lived.
The Tigers needed just six plays on their first possession to take a lead they would never relinquish.. Deemer capped a 67-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, giving Howland a 7-3 advantage.
Niles moved the ball into Howland territory on its second possession, but turned the ball over on downs at the Howland 49 on an incomplete pass while facing a fourth-and-two.
The gamble proved costly. On the next play from scrimmage, Deemer raced 51 yards to paydirt, giving Howland a 14-3 advantage.
A pair of second-quarter Niles turnovers put Howland in cruise control.
Ja’whan Dean scooped up a fumble and returned it 50 yards for a score at the 7:49 mark of the second quarter. Less than two minutes later, Jon Elliot pulled in an interception. That set up Howland’s fourth touchdown of the first half — a Keyshawn Busch 3-yard run.
Joe Draime filled in for Samari Dean, and was asked to throw the ball just once, completing a 17-yard pass. He also carried the ball two times for 63 yards.
“Joe stepped up, did a great job, took command of the offense and had a good night,” Menendez said.
Savin finished with 112 yards on 18 carries, but the Niles offense was limited to just 185 total yards.
“The turnovers were very costly, and against a great team like that you just can’t do that,” said Niles coach Brian Shaner. “We have to learn how to do the little things right. It’s nothing we don’t do at practice, it just seems to be that black cloud.”
Shaner said that despite the struggles, his team continues to play hard.
“Our seniors are never going to let us down,” Shaner said. “We got a good group of kids. You wouldn’t know in that locker room what our record is. They want to play football.”
Howland, which was 12th this week in the Region 9 computer rankings, hosts Canfield (7-0) next Friday. The Tigers then close the season against Akron East (6-1).
“After our (1-3) start, we told the guys it’s a one-week season, play one week at a time,” Menendez said. “The next two will be no different. If we play our game, we’ll be in good shape.”
Howland has now won four straight over Niles. While the Red Dragons own a 23-20 edge in the series, the Tigers have won nine of the last 11 meetings.