HOWELL — In a sense, the second day of September became part of the Howell football team’s Month of August on Thursday night.
August, as in running back August Johanningsmeier, a combination of size and speed not seen in the Howell backfield since the heyday of Bryce Lindberg more than a decade ago.
He rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and on his last carry gained six yards with one Canton defender on his chest and two more on his back.
Howell put its rushing attack on the shoulders of Johanningsmeier and quarterback Nolan Petru, with Noah Ramonaitis scoring three times as the Highlanders pulled away from Canton 41-21, at John Dukes Field.
Howell improved to 2-0 overall in winning its KLAA West Division opener. Click here for the archived broadcast.
“In order to do the things we want to do, we have to beat the previous champion,” Howell coach Brian Lewis said. “It just happened to come in week 2. We were able to beat the (defending) champs, and that’s step one in a good line of KLAA West teams.”
The Highlanders got there by beating run-oriented Canton at its own game, outrushing the Chiefs (0-2) 377-231.
But it was a pass that got the Highlanders going.
On the first play from scrimmage, after Jackson Kovarik returned the opening kickoff to the Howell 47, Petru handed the ball to Johanningsmeier, who then flipped the ball back to Petru.
Petru then hit a streaking Kovarik in stride for a 53-yard touchdown just 19 seconds into the contest.
“We practiced that at the beginning of the week,” Johanningsmeier said. “We thought it would throw them off, since we usually run first. Nolan threw a good ball and Jackson finished it. It was great.”
Canton tied it later in the first quarter on a 39-yard touchdown run by Wes Faulkner, but Howell replied with three touchdowns on consecutive possessions to take a 27-7 lead at halftime.
Each team scored twice in the second half, and the Highlanders were on the Canton 8 when the game ended.
“It was an awesome team effort,” said Petru, who rushed for 93 yards and threw for 71 more. “Everyone played their hearts out on every play, and we didn’t let off the gas.”
Among those putting the pedal to the metal was the Howell offensive line, which punched holes into the Canton defense almost at well.
“They were killing them,” Johanningsmeier said. “Every play, there was a truck-sized hole I could run through. They put in the work every day. They’re pushing the sleds (in practice). They do the most work on the team.”
Another unsung group was the Howell defense, which was gashed occasionally by the Chiefs’ rushing attack, but never consistently, and by the time the Canton offense got going, it was too late.
The Highlanders got an extra day off for the holiday weekend, what with next week’s home date with Northville not until Friday.
Given the scope and dominance his team showed, Lewis was asked, did that mean a short film session?
“It’s never a short film session,” he said, smiling. “But, obviously, our kids played hard, and I hope that’s what everyone saw. Our kids played every single play as hard as they possibly could, and that’s what Howell football is all about.”