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Retro HoCo: Howard High's Lions dominated in football in the early-to-mid 1970s

It’s a streak for the ages, the 47 consecutive games that the Howard High football team won almost half a century ago. For nearly five years (1971-1975), the Lions ran the table, torching opponents and earning their place in the record book. For decades, Howard’s victory string was the longest in Maryland public high school history, and it’s still No. 3.

Howard was a small, still rural school in 1971, with a nondescript past in football. But the team flourished under coach Bill Caudill, a coal miner’s son and onetime Marine whose doctrine of discipline, in an era of teenage defiance, took the Lions to the top. Never mind an offensive line that averaged just 170 pounds. Caudill’s teams muscled up before weightlifting was the norm and used computers to help scout opponents.

The streak began with a 26-8 win over Andover (Anne Arundel) and ended with a 28-6 loss to Paint Branch (Montgomery) in the 1975 state Class B title game. Was Howard dominant? In 1973, it won 11 times — eight of them shutouts — and outscored rivals 284-22; a year later, the Lions won 12 games, rang up 488 points to their opponents’ 34 and captured a state championship in the first season it was established. Wayne Wilson, a senior running back who sat on the bench until his final year, scored a touchdown in that game. He’d go on to play nine years in the NFL.

Caudill left after 1974 to coach at a larger school in Virginia. He died of a heart attack in 2000 at age 63. But players still echo the mantra he drummed into their heads.

“Winning is everything,” he’d say. “Losing is nothing.”

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