Last-minute score keeps Lions’ win streak alive

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY FOOTBALL - By Tim Schwartz

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.”

MATT HAZLETT/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

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.

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