Last-minute score keeps Lions’ win streak alive
The streak is alive. In the most anticipated Howard County football game in years, No. 5 Howard got a 14-yard touchdown reception from Cameron Hooper with 24.9 seconds remaining to edge No. 12 Long Reach, 14-7, and become the lone unbeaten team in Howard County at 8-0. The victory extended the Lions’ county winning streak to 32.
“I felt like the beginning of the game I didn’t do well, but the coaches had faith in me,” said Hooper, the backup running back to Devin Dawkins. “When the coaches called the play, I thought I had to make the play. I was just focused on catching the ball and by the grace of God I caught it.”
On a third-and-7, Howard quarterback Robby Porter, who threw for 1 yard in the first half before finding a rhythm in the fourth quarter, lobbed the pass to Hooper on the left side of the field. The ball went through the hands of the Lightning’s Jason Massengill and into Hooper’s, and he did the rest and stumbled into the end zone as the sellout crowd erupted.
“We had to throw the ball. I thought we were having a lot of success and they were doing a really good job against us when we got into the red zone,” Lions coach Bruce Strunk said. “There was 30 seconds left and I was saving that timeout to kick a field goal. I know they’re the turnover kings and they’ve scored a lot of points on turnovers this year.”
Dawkins, who finished with 195 yards on 35 carries, scored the first touchdown of the game for Howard on its second possession, as he gained all 60 of his team’s yards on the ground and capped the drive with a 17-yard run.
Long Reach (7-1) came back two drives later early in the second quarter and went 76 yards on six plays, which ended with a 6-yard touchdown run from Jalen Hall to tie the score at 7. The drive was set up by a 61-yard reception from Derrick Noble, who had a game-high 118 receiving yards on four catches.
Lightning quarterback Tyler Raines (12-for-31, 241 yards) threw for 154 yards in the second quarter, but he also was intercepted three times, including twice in the red zone.
“They made more plays than we did and we did something that we haven’t done all year, and that’s turn the ball over,” Long Reach coach Jamie Willis said. “We learn from it and hopefully wedon’t let it happen again. I feel bad for my kids, but you know what, to be the man you’ve got to beat the man, and right now [Howard] is the man.”
Senior defensive back Bryson Craven had two interceptions for the Lions in his first game since fracturing his ankle in Week 2. His second came with 2:46 to go at the Howard 41 and set up the final touchdown drive.
“I’m just happy to be in cleats again,” he said. “My whole life just changed when I broke it. Watching my brothers go out every single week and do what they do made me hungry, and I wanted to put my team on my back and help my teammates. Every week I was on that sideline and I finally got my chance and made my plays.”
The atmosphere was electric from start to finish, which was expected between two unbeaten rivals whose schools are separated by about 2 miles.
“The kids in the community, they know each other, they grew up together, they played on the same rec teams together – they know each other very well,” Strunk said. “When you play your brother, you don’t want to lose to your brother. It was just a great high school football team and we got tested tonight, which was good. Our kids showed a lot of resiliency and they kept fighting. I’m very proud of them.”
Devin Dawkins of Howard carries the ball against Michael Zeleznik of Long Reach in the fourth quarter. A 14-yard touchdown reception by Cameron Hooper with 24.9 seconds remaining in the game gave the Lions the win. Dawkins finished with 195 yards on 35 carries.