No. 13 Howard left no doubt last night that it is the team to beat for the Howard County championship, routing previously unbeaten Centennial, 35-7.
The host Lions (4-1, 2-0) used superior speed to create big plays, and its defense pressured No. 14 Centennial (4-1, 1-1) into four uncharacteristic turnovers.
"Thank God for those turnovers," Howard coach John Quinn said. "In the past they've played pretty much error-free ball against us."
Centennial, which had lost only one fumble all season, fumbled three times in the third quarter. Eagles quarterback Brian Dowell also threw a costly interception in the first quarter that led to Howard's second touchdown.
Centennial's fumble on the second-half kickoff set up Howard's fourth touchdown.
"We lost to a good team that was ready to play. We just had a bad game," Eagles coach Ed Holshue said. "Unfortunately, it was real bad."
The Lions drove 65 yards in nine plays to start the game. A. J. Durham's 21-yard pass reception started it. Corey Curtis carried five times for 15 yards and caught a 10-yard pass on the drive. He scored from the 4-yard line.
DaLawn Parrish returned an interception 44 yards late in the first quarter, setting up the Lions at Centennial's 11-yard line. Curtis scored the second of his three touchdowns by running 11 yards on second down.
Centennial didn't back down but drove 50 yards in four plays to score after a face-mask penalty against Howard on the kickoff.
Steve Puckett ran three times for 20 yards on the drive. Robbie Hauff, who entered the game with 15 touchdowns, scored on a 30-yard pass. He was wide-open on the right side with 11:14 left in the second quarter.
Hauff rushed 21 times for 103 yards -- well below his average of 180 yards per game. And Centennial quarterback Dowell completed only four of 16 passes for 55 yards.
"Hauff's a good running back," Parrish said. "We thought they'd try to run it down our throat with their big line and were surprised they threw so much."
After John Woods made an interception at Centennial's 1-yard line to stop a Howard drive, the Eagles, down 14-7, appeared ready to march to a tying touchdown. Centennial drove 67 yards in nine plays. Eight plays were rushes and one was an incomplete pass.
But the Eagles, facing second-and-five at Howard's 33, threw incomplete passes on their next three plays and Howard took over.
"We thought we saw some things that were open but they backfired," Holshue said.
The Lions then drove 67 yards on seven plays for their third touchdown and a 21-7 halftime lead.
"We thought we could still win in the second half, but then we fumbled the kickoff," Holshue said.
Curtis rushed 16 times for 84. Parrish rushed nine times for 84 yards and completed nine of 17 pases for 107 yards.
"Centennial is a much better team than the score indicated," Quinn said. "One of the things we wanted to avoid was the long pass because they beat us with that last year."