Throughout Friday night’s Ravens RISE High School Football Showdown against Glenelg, Howard could count on its running game to move the chains.
Mix in a couple timely gains in the air, a big stop on defense and a clutch field goal, and the Lions left with a sturdy 24-14 win that returned the treasured Elgard Trophy back in their hands.
Senior running back Travis Thompson led the way for the Lions, rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Howard improved to 5-1 overall and in league play, winning its fourth straight and ending a four-game slide against Glenelg.
In a game dominated by long drives with no punts or turnovers, the Lions proved more efficient. Running back Connor Hawkins added 67 yards on the ground and opened the Lions’ scoring with an 8-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Tyler Sabatini on an inside shovel pass.
“We really just wanted to take back the Elgard,” Thompson said. “We’re really trying hard and we have a good connection on the team. We’re balling out this season.”
Both teams’ offenses were tough to stop Friday night.
The Gladiators (4-2, 4-2 in Howard County) opened the game with a 10-play, 70-yard drive that featured 27 yards from running back Ethan Sotka (124 yards) and a 4-yard touchdown catch by tight end Jack Hayden from Christian Chen.
After Howard answered with an 11-play, 86-yard drive that Hawkins finished to tie the game at 7, the Lions’ defense forced the Gladiators to turn the ball over on downs, setting up Thompson’s 13-yard touchdown run that gave Howard a 13-7 halftime lead.
There was more from Thompson on the opening drive of the third quarter, as he finished a 57-yard march with a 7-yard touchdown run.
“They weren’t taking me down,” he said. “They couldn’t match my speed and it was mostly teamwork. Our line blocks good for us.”
After Glenelg quarterback Zach LaFountain found Will Piwowarski for a 21-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 21-14, the Lions had another quality drive stall at the Gladiators’ 8.
Howard kicker Pat Conron made a 25-yard field goal to give the Lions a 24-14 lead with 9:02 to play.
“It was a critical field goal, a lot of pressure there,” Howard coach Ross Hannon said. “It made it a two-score game and that kind of changed the dynamic a bit.”
One of Hannon’s priorities on defense was containing Sotka. The star running back had a strong game, but on a fourth-and-2 from the Lions’ 27 with under six minutes to play, his run up the middle was stopped by Howard defensive end Adam Kozikowski.
“I think we had a good effort from everybody all the way through,” said Kozikowski, a three-year varsity senor who moved from linebacker this season. “I just think being able to keep that effort all the way through really helped us get the win. This is the oldest rivalry in the county. It feels good.”
Hannon said this was Howard’s first road win at Glenelg in more than a decade. Gladiators coach Tim Cullen said it was well earned.
“We just couldn’t stop them,” he said. “They ran the ball well at us, they kind of attacked one of our weak spots and we couldn’t get off the field.”
Both teams have league games on the road next Friday at 7 p.m. Howard will try to keep rolling at Oakland Mills, while Glenelg looks to bounce back at River Hill.