Atholton coach Kevin Kelly has said all season that his Raiders can move the football. Last night at Howard, they proved him right.
Atholton quarterback Jason Sandner led a balanced Raiders attack that dealt Howard its first loss of the season, 41-15.
The Raiders (3-1 overall, 1-0 league) played so well they surprised even their coach in the league opener.
"I never would have believed this," Kelly said. "I thought we'd have our hands full."
The Raiders racked up 178 yards rushing and 115 yards passing in the first three quarters before sending in the second team.
Atholton forged a 28-7 halftime lead on two touchdown passes from Sandner to Greg McDonald and short touchdown runs by Sandner and Ricky Trott.
Sandner completed five of nine passes for 92 yards and rushed five times for 37 yards in the first half.
"We wanted to open some eyes around the county, so we came ready to play tonight," Sandner said. "Our defense has struggled some in the past, but really picked it up tonight."
The Lions (3-1, 0-1) also helped by self-destructing with sloppy tackling, crucial penalties and two turnovers in the first half.
A 59-yard touchdown pass from Sandner to McDonald on the first play of the second quarter resulted from a missed tackle at Howard's 40-yard line.
McDonald caught the pass at the 40 and was helped out by a block from Keith Jefferson. That touchdown put the Raiders ahead, 13-7.
"If we tackle like we did tonight, we're in for a long season," Howard coach Joe Thomas said.
On the Lions' next series, a Howard holding penalty nullified a 23-yard run by Howard's Reggie Ray.
Atholton then drove 47 yards to score, and the big play was a 20- yard run by Trott, who was hit at the line of scrimmage but broke away. Atholton led, 21-7.
Howard's sloppy play continued, as the Lions fumbled on first down of their next possession and Atholton recovered at Howard's 28.
On Howard's next possession, Trott intercepted at the Lions' 35-yard line, and Atholton eventually scored on a 10-yard pass to McDonald.
"We didn't want them to gang up on Trott, so we tried to spread our offense around," Sandner said. "We're really pepped up now. We know we're a good team."
Atholton polished off Howard in the second half by scoring on a 32-yard pass from Sandner to Keith Jefferson and a 26-yard run by Jon Sanford.
"That first half we played was about as good as I've ever seen, especially the second quarter," Kelly said. "I was very concerned that Howard would control the line of scrimmage. I thought this game was a real barometer for our team, but, heck, we've got Oakland Mills next week."