Howard football wins second straight Elgard Trophy, county title. Howard beat Glenelg Gladiators 27-7 on Octover 30, 2015.
Battered, bruised and disheveled. That summed up Howard star running back Malik Anderson's first half against visiting Glenelg on Oct. 30.
The senior came into the rivalry game with 1,297 yards and averaged 8.8 yards per carry, but his first half stats looked relatively pedestrian – eight carries, 45 yards, no scores.
"Honestly, I don't really know what was going on," Anderson said. "I am disappointed in how that went."
The start of the second half wasn't much better, as Anderson fumbled the ball – the Lions' third turnover of the game – but it was what happened next that turned the game on its head.
Glenelg's Brett Wasson punted and Anderson scooped it on a bounce, took it across the field and up the right sideline for a 90-yard touchdown, giving Howard (9-0) a 20-7 lead en route to a 26-7 victory to capture its second straight Elgard Trophy.
"It was huge. That's what Malik does – he's great in space, and he's a game changer," said Lions coach Bruce Strunk. "That's what he does. He was banged up a little bit and we weren't running the ball as well as we usually do. ... We needed a spark, and that was the spark."
While the Gladiators defense keyed on Anderson, Howard senior quarterback Casey Crawford took advantage by throwing for 164 yards and two touchdown passes in the first half – one to Tanner Scaife and the other to Bryson Craven – before Anderson scored on a 25-yard scamper midway through the fourth quarter.
The victory was the 23rd straight in Howard County play and sealed the Lions' second county championship in as many years.
"That feels great. These kids worked their tails off, and they deserve it," Strunk said. "We graduated 32 kids last year, and we only have 12 seniors this year. We didn't know what to think of this team, but some guys stepped up and I'm very proud of them."
Howard jumped on the scoreboard early when Crawford, on a play-action pass, found Scaife up the middle for a 59-yard catch and run for a 6-0 lead.
"They played eight in the box, but that opened up the passing game," Strunk said. "They took away Malik, so we took what they gave us."
On their next drive, the Lions moved the ball 54 yards on eight plays, but Crawford committed the game's first turnover when his pass up the middle was intercepted by Glenelg's Jey Berko at the 4-yard line.
The Gladiators ensuing drive lasted about six minutes, but they could only manage to get 36 yards before a 1-yard punt.
The Lions took advantage and continued to hit the big play, as this time Crawford's pass to Craven went for 45 yards to give Howard a commanding 13-0 lead with 7:31 left in the first half.
"We've got a good group of receivers and a good running back. ... If you're going to be successful in 4A you've got to be balanced," Strunk said. "We've got to be able to throw the ball and run the ball, and we felt we had an advantage (throwing). They're pretty good against the run."
Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer admitted his defense was committed to slowing down Anderson, which opened up the passing lanes.
"You've got to take your chances with one or the other," he said. "It's hard to take away both. We were trying to take Malik away as best we could."
Glenelg (5-4), however, answered quickly by continuing to pound the ball inside with workhorse running back Trey Davis. Davis opened the drive from their own 37 with a 12-yard run up the middle, and two plays later he finally broke through, stiff arming a defender and outrunning the defense for a 51-yard touchdown run.
Then, on the kickoff, Wasson's kick was boomed right at a Howard player, and the ball bounced back into Wasson's hands for a "pure luck" recovery to give the Gladiators the ball back.
However, just three plays later Craven intercepted Elijah Darden's pass at the Lions' 41.
Anderson turned the ball over on a fumble early in the third quarter, but returned the punt to give his team a 20-7 lead. Schaffer said the game plan was to kick the ball away from Anderson.
"The punt return really hurt. We've got to keep the ball away from their big players, and unfortunately on that play we didn't," Schaffer said. "Unfortunately he caught it on the sideline and took it to the house. He's a tremendous football player."
Neither team got much going offensively until Howard's second to last drive of the game. Cameron Hooper ran for a 16-yard gain, and Donnie Place followed that up with a 36-yard run on the next play. Two plays later, Anderson finally broke through the left side and scored his only rushing touchdown of the night to give the Lions a 26-7 lead.
"They're a really good football team and we knew that coming in. We knew we needed to play a perfect game, and we just didn't," Schaffer said. "We had to prevent the big plays, and we gave up a few big plays. ... When you play a great team like Howard, which they are, you have to play perfect."
Crawford finished the game 8/12 for 189 yards and two touchdown passes, while Scaife led the way with two receptions for 81 yards and a score. Anderson had 15 carries for 79 yards a touchdown on the ground, in addition to the 90-yard punt return touchdown.