Howard defeated visiting Centennial Friday night, 29-26, putting a severe dent into the Eagles’ plans of reaching the football postseason.
Terrell Charles ran for two touchdowns, linebacker Ronald Lee ran back an interception for a touchdown and Kevin Sheahin threw for another score for the Lions (5-2), who overcame a 11-point halftime deficit.
"We came back," Charles said. "I think we won because we wanted it."
Centennial came out strong in the first half. With 2:51 remaining in the first quarter, Eagles quarterback Tyler Morris connected with receiver Chase Conley inside the red zone on a slant for the game’s first score.
Howard responded, starting a drive on the Eagles’ 38 after recovering a muffed punt. The Lions drove down deep into Centennial territory, then handed the ball off the Charles on the one-yard line to tie the game at 7-7 with eight minutes remaining.
Centennial (5-2) countered with two Walter Fletcher running scores to go ahead 20-9 at the break. The extra point was blocked on the second Eagles’ touchdown.
On defense, the Eagles looked to be dominating the Lions, as Sheahin was picked off twice in the first two quarters.
In the second half, Lions coach Bruce Strunk told his team to dig deep.
“We get in a bad habit of coming out and not playing with emotion,” said Strunk, who won his 100th game on Friday. “I won’t say we weren’t focused, or that we didn’t try. We just came out emotionless.”
The Lions came out in the second half looking rejuvenated. In it’s opening drive, Howard converted on a fourth down opportunity, which set up Charles for a 38-yard run to get the Lions back into contention at 20-14.
The first play of the fourth quarter could have been the turning point in the game for the Lions.
Centennial slinger Morris stepped back to pass inside his own five-yard line. That’s when Lee stepped in front of a quick slant and snagged the interception, returning it for the go-ahead touchdown.
“All the momentum was going our way,” Strunk said. “Our kids made a big play when they had to.”
The Eagles wouldn’t go away quietly. With less than four minutes remaining in the contest, Morris threw a quick screen to Fletcher, who took it 65 yards for the score. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but Centennial still found itself up 26-20.
Howard’s final strike came on its next possession. Inside his own 40-yard line, Sheahin sent a long ball to receiver Kyle Walker, who took it the distance for what would ultimately be the game-winning score.
Fletcher, whose three touchdowns on the night almost put his team over the edge, said the Eagles could have let their strong first half dictate how they came out in the second.
"I thought we got complacent with our lead," he said. "Missed assignments and mistakes late in the game really affected us."
Howard's ability to stop Fletcher when it counted proved to be the difference-maker. The Lions' coach said he was proud of his team's heart, especially late in the game.
“We needed this win really bad,” said Strunk. “We came roaring back, and I think we put it all on the line.”