HOWELL — There are always things to clean up, things to work on after week 1 of the high school football season.
And while season openers sometimes give coaches nightmares, there’s nothing like a win to soothe a coach’s nerves.
Asked what he felt after his team’s 18-12 home win over Lansing Everett, Howell coach Aaron Metz was quick to answer.
“Relief,” he said, laughing. “It feels good. I’m proud of my kids. They gave a great effort. It always feels good to be part of the group that’s 1-0 instead of 0-1. It’s a little bit of relief and we feel good from that standpoint.”
The Highlanders never trailed in the contest, leading 9-0 at halftime and adding a field goal before Everett cut the Howell lead in half, 12-6.
Joey Gossett scored on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter to give Howell what appeared to be a comfortable margin. But Everett converted after a late Howell turnover to make things uncomfortable for the Highlanders until turning the ball over on downs with 20 seconds left.
“It’s always good to get a win, no matter what,” said senior quarterback Ryan Brennan, who rushed for a team-high 84 yards and threw for 126 more.
“We played hard tonight,” said Mitch Sussella, whose 29-yard reception in the third quarter set up a field goal.
Asked about the pass, Brennan’s face lit up.
“You should have scored!” he said, prompting a sheepish grin by Sussella.
“We have some things we can learn, and there’s that old cliche that you improve a lot between the first and second games,” Metz said. “We have to make big strides to get ready for next week.”
The Highlanders will travel to South Lyon, which was routed by Pinckney, 42-6, in the Pirates’ home opener.
It was the fifth win in a row for the Pirates, who won the last four games of last season. South Lyon scored on the final play of the game.
“We capitalized on their mistakes,” Pinckney coach Jakob Gailitis said. “Our defense was all over the field. It’s the best I’ve seen it play in nine years at Pinckney.”
The Pirates defense caused six turnovers, including three interceptions by Nick Cain.
On offense, Levi Collins rushed for just 27 yards, but he had three touchdowns. Quarterback Jack Wurzer, in his first start, threw for 96 yards and rushed for 51 more, including a touchdown.
Hartland, the defending KLAA West Division champions, had trouble with wide receiver Anthony D’Annibale, who ran wild inside the Eagles secondary.
D’Annibale scored six times and had 12 catches for 228 yards in Novi’s 49-28 victory.
“They had a player we couldn’t stop,” Hartland coach Brian Savage said. “I thought we moved the ball well at times when we needed to, but we played catch-up quite a bit.”
Brad Ekonen threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions for the Eagles, who play at Salem on Sept. 2.
“We’re going to learn from it and get better this week,” Savage said.