Howard County Times
Howard County Sports

Howard football crushes Atholton, 55-14, to clinch third straight county title

The last three times Howard has suffered defeat it had to wait for the following season to take the field again.

But on Friday night, following a 25-20 loss to Glenelg on Oct. 28, the Lions finally got a chance to get the bad taste of their mouths, and it was clear from the first whistle that they were anxious to put it behind them.


Howard proved as much by scoring a season-high 55 points and dismantling Atholton, 55-14, at home to finish the regular season 9-1 and clinch its third straight Howard County title. The defeat knocks the Raiders (6-4) out of the last 3A East regional playoff spot, while the Lions will likely host Bel Air as the No. 2 seed in the opening round of the 4A North regional playoffs next weekend.

"This game meant a lot in a lot of different ways. It was good to see us come out and play football," said Howard coach Bruce Strunk. "I thought we played well as a team – offense, defense and special teams all scored – and the kids came and played.


"It feels awesome. It's a difficult feat to win the county title three years in a row. I'm just proud of my guys. A lot of guys felt the pressure after we lost last week and a legacy to live up to. They didn't want to let the former graduates down."

The Lions, whose previous season-high in points scored was 47 against Mt. Hebron on Sept. 23, jumped out to a 35-0 lead midway through the second quarter and Atholton never fully recovered. On the Raiders' first offensive play, Howard senior defensive back Bryson Craven returned Habib Bundu's fumble 33 yards for a score, and on the next possession the Lions ended a 15-play Atholton drive with a blocked field goal attempt that Dimeji Olayinka returned 70 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Craven, who also intercepted a pass late in the first quarter, said his team was hungry to get back in the win column and a fast start was critical to regain momentum.

"To be honest, I think we needed that loss," he said. "Last year we never experienced a loss and how it felt until we got to states. That loss drove us a little bit harder to go hard in practice. We've tasted that sour taste and we don't want that no more. We just want the sweetness of a 'W.'"

The Lions' offense, which ran just 11 plays in the first quarter, got going early in the second. Sophomore running back Devin Dawkins, who finished the night with 17 carries for 198 yards and three touchdowns, got his first score on a 38-yard run. Backup running back Robert Agbai scored his first touchdown of the night on a 1-yard toss play on its next drive, and Dawkins put Howard up 35-0 with a 3-yard scoring run with 3 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the first half. He broke off a 62-yard run to set up the touchdown two plays later.

"[Devin] is just so agile and so fast," said Lions junior quarterback Robby Porter. "He's a complete running back. He can catch, run, spin and make all the moves."

Atholton got a 70-yard kick return touchdown from Jasen Parkins and an 8-yard touchdown catch from Eric Love to cut the deficit to 35-14 before the half, but the Lions came out firing in the third and scored three touchdowns on three drives that totaled 13 offensive plays to force a running clock late in the third quarter.

The Raiders, who moved the ball well between the 20s with a spread passing attack that featured quick throws to the sidelines, couldn't overcome the turnovers – a key reason it will miss the playoffs despite a winning record. River Hill clinched the fourth playoff spot in the regional playoffs with a 42-7 victory over Mt. Hebron.


"With the fumble return and blocked kick, it's 14-0 without their offensive having any production," said Atholton coach Justin Carey. "At halftime being down 35-14, if you take away those two and maybe we make that field goal that was blocked, you're talking about a 21-17 game.

"I'm just proud of my kids, my program, my coaches. We're trying to build something at Atholton and it's going to take some time. Of course we have high expectations – there's no excuses – and I think we had a successful season. We finish 6-4, that's above .500. It's not where we want to be but each year we're going to take steps forward and progress."

Raiders quarterback Dominic Totaro had an efficient first half in the passing game, going 18-for-24 for 134 yards and a touchdown, but was less effective in the second half. He finished the night 23-for-40 for 157 yards, while wide receiver Jacob Waterworth caught 13 passes for 110 yards.

Dawkins' night was finished after his third scoring run early in the second half and Porter went 6-for-9 for 112 yards passing and an interception for Howard. However, he was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter after a late hit by Atholton's Reed Bunyard, who was penalized and ejected from the game, but returned to the sidelines. Agbai scored on a 13-yard run on the next play.

"It was great to come back from the locker room and see our guys put up some more points," Porter said. "We didn't give up. ... We punched them in the mouth."

Howard (9-1) – 14 21 20 0 – 55


Atholton (6-4) – 0 14 0 0 – 14

Scoring plays:

First quarter

Ho: Bryson Craven 33-yard fumble recovery, Michael Gillespie kick [7-0]

Ho: Dimeji Olayinka 70-yard blocked field goal return, Gillespie kick [14-0]

Second quarter


Ho: Devin Dawkins 38-yard run, Gillespie kick [21-0]

Ho: Robert Agbai 1-yard run, kick blocked [27-0]

Ho: Dawkins 3-yard run, Robby Porter pass to Donny Place [35-0]

A: Jasen Parkins 70-yard kick return, Ben Lovera kick [35-7]

A: Dominic Totaro 8-yard pass to Eric Love, Lovera kick [35-14]

Third quarter


Ho: Dawkins 1-yard run, kick blocked [41-14]

Ho: Cameron Hooper 22-yard run, Gillespie kick [48-14]

Ho: Agbai 13-yard run, Gillespie kick [55-14]

Other scores:

TJ Lyles ran for two scores and threw two more, had two sacks, two blocked extra point attempts and a blocked punt to lead Wilde Lake to a 35-25 win over Oakland Mills to clinch the No. 3 seed in the 3A East regional playoffs. The Wildecats will travel to face Glenelg in the regional semifinals next week.

Wilde Lake (7-3) – 14 7 7 7 – 35


Oakland Mills (4-6) – 0 6 7 12 – 25

Scoring plays:

First quarter

WL: TJ Lyles 1-yard run, Jason MacMillan kick [7-0]

WL: Lyles 27-yard pass to Osita Smith, MacMillan kick [14-0]

Second quarter


WL: Lyles 17-yard pass to Osita Smith, MacMillan kick [21-0]

OM: Aaron Gibson 20-yard pass to Jordan Hopkins, kick blocked [21-6]

Third quarter

WL: Lyles 1-yard run, MacMillan kick [28-6]

OM: Gibson 70-yard pass to Justin Hurley, Daniel MacKie kick [28-13]

Fourth quarter


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OM: Shallon Robinson 5-yard run, kick blocked [28-19]

WL: Lyles 93-yard kickoff return, MacMillan kick [35-19]

OM: Robinson 20-yard pass to Hopkins, conversion failed [35-25]

Long Reach (8-2) – 39, Hammond (0-10) – 14. Long Reach's win clinches the No. 1 seed in the 3A East regional playoffs. It will host River Hill in the opening round next weekend.

Glenelg (8-2) – 42, Centennial (1-9) – 12. The win gives Glenelg the No. 2 seed in the 3A East regional playoffs. It will host Wilde Lake in the first round.

River Hill (6-4) – 42, Mt. Hebron (2-8) – 7. River Hill's victory gives it the fourth and final playoff spot in the 3A East regional playoffs. It will travel to Long Reach in the opening round.


Reservoir (4-6) – 27, Marriotts Ridge (5-5) – 21. Reservoir finishes the season on a four-game winning streak.