A hot air balloon flies over John Dukes Field during warmups prior to Friday's game. (Photo: Tim Robinson)

Howell rolls past Northville, 34-0 — with archived broadcast

HOWELL  —There’s still a long way to go this season for the Howell football team, but Friday’s 34-0 demolition of Northville was further proof that 2021 could be a year to remember,

The Highlanders controlled the ball for long stretches in dispatching the Mustangs while improving to 3-0 overall, 2-0 in the KLAA West Division. It’s Howell’s best start since 2015, when they won their first four games of the season.

Click here to listen to the archived broadcast.

They did it on offense, with Nolan Petru running for two touchdowns and throwing for another; on defense, which stopped Northville twice inside the Howell 5; and on special teams, which contributed two 41-yard field goals, a kick return for a score, and didn’t allow a Northville kickoff return past the Mustangs’ 25 yard line.

“It’s a full game,” Howell coach Brian Lewis said. “You can’t focus on one aspect of the game and expect it to be successful. They all have synergy. They all go together.”

Start with the offense. The Highlanders went without a punt for the second consecutive game and controlled the clock for long periods, keeping Northville’s passing attack sidelined.

“That’s what we try to do, keep the ball away from teams,” Petru said.

But the Highlanders also proved they could score quickly, getting the ball with less than two minutes to go in the first half and scoring on Petru’s 17-yard pass to Danny Honkala with 6.8 seconds left.

“A great pass,” Honkala said. “He told me I would be open in the end zone.”

Honkala’s leaping grab gave the HIghlanders a 20-0 lead, but it was special teams that sealed the deal after halftime.

Howell’s Jackson Kovarik took the opening kickoff of the second half at the Howell 2.

“I caught the ball, and I saw everybody block perfectly,” Kovarik said. “I saw an opening, made one cut, and I was gone.”

“That was awesome,” Petru said. “We came out thinking, don’t let off the gas. We saw them, and they had some energy, and that kick return took it all away from them.”

The Mustangs went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Howell took over at the Northville 45 after a short punt.

The Highlanders then ground out a 15-play drive, bleeding the clock until Petru scored on a quarterback sneak with 38 seconds left in the quarter.

Howell’s August Johanningsmeier left the game with his left shoulder in a sling after a defensive play in the third quarter, and running back Noah Ramonaitis left the game and was on crutches in the second half.

“It’s wait and see,” Lewis said of their respective statuses. “The next steps are the next steps.”

That gave Cole Quattlander and Aiden Brown a chance to carry the ball, and they made the most of it.

Quattlander had 72 yards on 12 carries, and Brown carried on all 10 plays of Howell’s final drive, gaining 74 yards before the clock ran out.

“Those two guys, behind the scenes, work as hard as any of our kids,” Lewis said. “They had great off-seasons that led to the point where when they went in, they were ready to go. In this game, you never know when your opportunity is going to arise … once you get the opportunity, you’d better seize it, so the coaches don’t take you off the field. That’s part of the game, and those guys bought into that message and they were ready to rock and roll tonight.”

Another player who made the most of his opportunities was kicker Nolan Cuellar, who kicked two 41-yard field goals, an impressive distance for high school kickers, to help stake the Highlanders to a 13-0 lead in the second quarter.

The Highlanders meet Plymouth next week and then Salem, both of whom are winless after three weeks.

But on Friday night, Lewis was in no mood to get ahead of himself.

“One week at a time,” he said. “We’re excited to be 3-0. That feels better than anything else. But we’re going to go one week at a time. We’re going to enjoy this tonight, then focus on next week’s game.”

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