NOVI — After his team was steamrolled by Detroit Catholic Central on Saturday, one thing was abundantly clear to Howell coach Aaron Metz.
“The big thing for our program is we have to get physically stronger,” he said. “We saw that today. They were stronger than us, and give them credit.”
The 49-17 loss ended Howell’s season with a 5-5 record, the same as last year, but the Highlanders gave the Shamrocks defense plenty to think about.
Ryan Brennan, playing his final high school game, threw the ball 44 times, completing 23 for 289 yards and a touchdown. Jack Mills (102 yards receiving) and Logan Russo (92) had eight catches apiece.
Catholic Central’s Jack Morris had a hand, literally, in Brennan’s completion percentage, batting away a half-dozen passes, the last of which was tipped to Jack Downs for the final Shamrocks score.
“Our plan was to throw the ball, and we did that a lot,” Morris said. “I said we were going to throw the ball 40 times, and we moved it at times. But when you throw it that much, you have some drops and some missed throws, and we had one pick.”
But the Shamrocks also had a powerful rushing attack out of their T-formation. Fullback Cameron Ryan rushed for 143 yard and two touchdowns,and halfback Nick Capatina ran for 138 yards and two more scores. The other halfback, Matt Young, had one carry, but also found himself wide open down the middle on a 69-yard pass play that effectively put the game out of reach.
“Our plan was to throw the ball, and we did that a lot,” Metz said. “I said we were going to throw the ball 40 times, and we moved it at times. But when you throw it that much, you have some drops and some missed throws, and we had one pick.”
The Highlanders also were hurt by penalties, 11 for 92 yards including 25 on personal foul calls on one play.
Howell got to within four, 14-10, on a 42-yard field goal into the wind by George Diakantonis, but the Shamrocks scored on their next two possessions to ead at halftime, 28-10.
The Highlanders defense stopped Catholic Central on its first drive, forcing a punt, and appeared to stop the Shamrocks on fourth-and-3 on their next drive.
But a penalty gave the Shamrocks the first down, and on the next play, quarterback Austin Brown threw to a wide-open Young for the touchdown that effectively put the game out of reach.
“That was the backbreaker,” Metz said. “Our defense had played great for two series, had stopped them on back-to-back series, and that was great. And then we gave them a free opportunity and they took advantage.
“We made too many mistakes,” he continued. “Our kid gave a great effort and we played hard. I think the most points scored on them was 20, and we’re up there, but we missed a couple opportunities.”
Brennan threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Logan Russo, and scored himself on a 3-yard run.
“They’re a big strong team, obviously,” Brennan said. “It’s a great football team and it was a good opportunity to get to play them. We played our hearts out. We left everything out there.”
Catholic Central will play host to Novi, which ousted Brighton 38-9 on Friday, in a district final Saturday at 1 p.m.
“There were a lot of ups and downs to our season, but our kids never quit, and I think that speaks to them,” Metz said. “It’s a huge, positive thing, never ever to quit. Things are going to get bac, but are you going to keep fighting? And they kept fighting.”