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Howland rallies to stun Poland

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Howland’s Brayden Gibson makes a fingertrip catch during the Tigers’ 14-13 victory over Poland.

HOWLAND — The Howland Tigers christened their new field with a last-second, heart-pounding 14-13 victory over Poland.

“It was a great battle,” Howland coach Steve Boyle said. “Poland is a well-coached team and both teams continued to fight for four quarters.”

The Bulldogs got off to a 10-point lead going into halftime after a field goal by Mikey Kushner to start off the scoring and a touchdown rush by Jake Rutana in the second quarter.

Going into halftime, the Tigers made some adjustments, and they worked.

“We made some corrections and some changes and stuff like that, and we were just correcting some technique stuff,” Boyle said. “The guys bought into it. That’s the one thing. They bought into the process and they’re continuing to do that.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Howland's Williams Hines (2) tries to escape from Poland defender Andrew Parker who has lost his helmet while trying to tackle Hines.

Midway through the third quarter, Howland tailback Eric Babinchak broke through the Bulldogs’ defensive line to score a 52-yard touchdown.

“I really hung our hat on our defense, they did a great job,” Boyle said.

Howland stayed in the game by grinding it out, and that’s what Boyle told his team going into that final drive.

“Our offense did a great job, they kept grinding and kept grinding,” he said. “On that final possession I told them to just stay the course, and keep up the effort.”

As the Tigers were driving down the field, they had a bit of luck. Poland was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct that brought the Tigers into the red zone.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Jack Fulton (15) of Poland tries to get away from Howland defender Garrett Deemer.

“Things like that happen in the game, and you have to capitalize when you get the opportunity when that takes place,” Boyle said.

A couple plays later, Garrett Deemer broke through the Poland defense to get into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left on the clock.

The Tigers defense held the line on the hail mary attempt and Howland got its first win of the year.

“That’s really what Friday night lights is all about, games that come down to the wire and one team emerges as the victor,” Boyle said.

Poland coach Ryan Williams had the same thoughts.

“It doesn’t matter whose field, who’s coaching, who’s playing, the Poland and Howland game always comes down to one score, and it’s a four-quarter game,” Williams said. “This is just another chapter in a great book of matchups between two quality football programs.”

Opening up the new field with a win is a special feeling — something Boyle said would be talked about for a long time at the school.

“We’ll always remember the first time we played on turf field here and got a victory out of it,” Boyle said. “We were very fortunate for that to happen.”

The Bulldogs (1-2) look to get back to .500 when they open up league play against South Range.

“They’re going to be well-coached and we’re going to get working on them first thing (Saturday) morning,” Williams said.

Howland (1-2) faces another tough opponent on its schedule when they travel to Boardman to face the Spartans.

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