Working their way back

HOWLAND – With each passing week, the Howland Tigers continue to gain more and more confidence. After an 0-2 start, Howland has won five games in a row, beating impressive opponents like Poland and Hubbard along the way.

On Friday night, their fifth-straight win came against the Pittsburgh Perry Commodores, 38-8. While the first half wasn’t always pretty, the Tigers managed to still carry a 17-0 advantage into the break.

“Yeah, we’ve gained confidence and sometimes you gotta put the humble pie on ’em (the players),” Howland coach Dominic Menendez said. “I don’t like the way our football team showed up (tonight). Sloppy, a lot of penalties. So whatever it was, it better be out of our system as we move forward.”

Howland got all the way to the Perry 20-yard line on its opening drive but settled for a Luke Brancaccio 37-yard field goal. Shortly after that, a Perry fumble was recovered by Howland’s George Beatty-Marsh at the Commodore 36.

Five plays later, Samari Dean found Stephen Baugh on a 12-yard touchdown pass, extending the Tiger lead to 10-0.

Early in the second quarter, Victor Williams had his second punt return of at least 30 yards on the night, as he took a punt 32 yards deep into Commodore territory.

The Tigers quickly cashed in, as Tyriq Ellis had his first of two rushing touchdowns on the night, giving Howland a 17-0 lead.

Perry (2-4) responded with a 63-yard completion from Doug Johnson to Randy Williams, all the way down to the Howland 1. However, Howland stuffed the Commodores four plays in a row, and took over from inside their own 1-yard line.

Before halftime, Perry sqaundered another opportunity to get back in the game. The Commodores got to the Howland 10, but penalties pushed them back to the 27. Williams eventually picked off Johnson’s pass in the end zone as time expired in the first half.

“They (Howland defense) just knew their spots and they just knew their assignments,” Perry coach Craig Aguglia said. “They were where they belong. I think we (Perry) played well, I think we showed them a team that they didn’t think they’d come see.”

In the second half, Howland continued to pound the ball right at Perry, as the Tigers put together a 13-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in an Isom Julian 1-yard touchdown plunge. Ellis then added his second score early in the fourth quarter, extending Howland’s lead to 31-0.

Ellis rushed for 159 yards on 26 carries, and continued to show a violent, physical running style, which is the signature of his game.

When asked why he runs so hard, Ellis replied, “Being doubted. It’s a respect factor and coach (Menendez) always tells me to lower the shoulder and force your will.

“When you have a line that blocks like my line does and gives me the holes, you can’t run soft and timid. I just pride myself on being able to dominate,” Ellis said.”

Ellis will need to continue to dominate as his Tigers (5-2) take on Niles, Canfield and Warren Harding in their final three games. Howland is ranked fourth in Division III, Region 9 and is looking to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2012.

For Ellis, he believes that the team’s improvement over the last five weeks is a result of more effort, as most people had written off the Tigers after those first two rough weeks of the season.

“We started off 0-2 and a lot of people said that we’re jokes,” Ellis said. “We came out here every day and coach told us that we gotta keep practicing and getting better. We didn’t appreciate the name that we were getting, so we had to depend on each other as a family.

“(If we) play like we’ve been playing, play as a team, don’t let the hype get to us, and most importanly, stay calm (we’ll have a chance in our final three games). If we play as a family, we shouldn’t have any letdowns.”