On a day when Howard was celebrating its 25th anniversary undefeated state championship football team, the current Lions honored that team the best way it could -- by staying unbeaten and on track for the state Class 2A playoffs.
Howard fullback Travis Irving captured the exuberent feeling of the homecoming crowd at the Lions' stadium yesterday when he stood on the team bench and held up his left index finger signaling to a throng of 2,000-plus fans that the Lions are No. 1.
A victory celebration then ensued for the No. 8-ranked Lions, 20-7 winners over rival and No. 6-ranked Oakland Mills.
Howard (5-0 overall, 4-0 league) again demonstrated it is an opportunistic, big-play team that makes you pay for your mistakes. The Lions ended defending county and state Class 1A champion Oakland Mills' 15-game winning streak.
On Oakland Mills' third play from scrimmage, cornerback Antuan Jones' 34-yard interception return produced Howard's first touchdown. It was the first of four Oakland Mills turnovers.
Jones' second interception, at Howard's 36-yard line stopped an Oakland Mills drive early in the second quarter.
Howard's most renowned player, Gerald Smith, prevented a touchdown on one of the season's most memorable plays as the first half ended. Oakland Mills quarterback J. T. Rembert appeared headed for a certain touchdown on a 30-yard all-out sprint down the right sideline. But Smith collided with Rembert inside the 1-yard line on a tackle so ferocious that the football flew backward out of Rembert's hands about 10 yards and Smith lay on the ground for a couple of scary minutes before getting up.
"I got a stinger in my shoulder," Smith said. "I thought I had dislocated it. He wanted to make the play. I wanted to make the play. I was back in pass coverage because I saw a guy come open across the middle, but I was in a full sprint when he got to the 5-yard line and I brought everything I had. It was the best hit I ever made in my life."
Howard coach Vince Parnell said: "That was a pro hit and the turning point in the game."
Howard linebacker Joey Tortella, who made 25 tackles, including 13 solos, said: "It was a great hit. A touchdown there would have changed everything. That hit set the tone and let them know our defense is no joke."
Tackles by Mike McAleese, Adrian Cmerek and two by Louis Matthews stopped Oakland Mills (4-1, 3-1) on its first second-half possession, and quarterback sacks by Matthews and Craig Ford stopped the Scorpions on their second possession.
A 55-yard sweep by Jones to the Oakland Mills 31-yard line set up Howard' second touchdown. A roll-out pass from Boomer Durham to Adam Snyder for a 17-yard touchdown enriched Howard's lead to 13-0 with 10: 30 to play. The kick failed.
Oakland Mills fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Howard's Justin Ferguson recovered at the 25-yard line, setting up another touchdown.
Fullback Irving won a shoulder-bashing collision at the 12-yard line with Scorpions linebacker Thaddeus Dymczenski, driving the would-be tackler out of bounds and then finishing his 19-yard touchdown run with 5: 19 to play.
Oakland Mills then drove 62 yards to score on Gavin Holcomb's 18-yard run, but with just 2: 12 left to play it was too little too late. Dymczenski led Oakland Mills in rushing with 10 carries for 77 yards and Rembert had 70 yards on eight carries.
Jones led Howard with 78 yards on five carries. Smith was held to 23 yards on 13 carries and Irving to 36 yards on 10 carries.
"This was a gut-check game for us because you know they'll [Scorpions] be physical," Parnell said.
No. 10 Wilde Lake 34, Atholton 0: The visiting Wildecats (4-1) compiled 183 total rushing yards in posting their second shutout of the season. Curtis Gore returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 10-yard run.
River Hill 24, Glenelg 21: Dyami Jenkins ran for 112 yards and a touchdown as the host Lightning (3-2) downed the Gladiators (2-3). Jenkins' 4-yard scoring run in the first quarter put River Hill ahead 14-0.
The Lightning also received 107 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Jason Fawcett.