GOODRICH — The Howell football team needed a near-perfect game Friday night to have a chance to knock off undefeated Grand Blanc in a Division 1 football district championship game.
Instead, it was the Bobcats who were near-perfect, scoring on seven of eight possessions before ending the game with a pair of kneeldowns, and rolled to a 49-28 victory.
“They’re explosive, and they made explosive plays tonight,” Howell coach Brian Lewis said. “We talked about limiting their explosive plays and we did not do that.”
The Highlanders (8-3) weren’t able to stop running back Elijah Jackson-Andersob, who rushed for 126 yards and three scores, or quarterback Hunter Ames, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
Grand Blanc scored on its first three possessions, taking a 21-0 lead and effectively putting the game out of reach in the second quarter.
Howell got on the board on a 22-yard pass from Nolan Petru to Arvin Yang late in the first half, then converted on a pass from Petru to John Lovich for a two-point conversion to make it 21-8 at halftime.
But Grand Blanc scored on its first possession of the second half and kept the Highlandes at bay for the rest of the evening.
Still, the Highlanders played to the final whistle. After falling behind 41-15, Petru and Jackson Kovarik hooked up on a 33-yard score. The Highlanders recovered an onside kick and converted that into a 35-yard scoring pass from Petru to Ashton Hill, then recovered a second onside kick.
This time, the Grand Blanc defense held and the Bobcats put the game out of reach on Ames’ 3-yard touchdown pass to Kaden Baker for the final score.
‘”We got some big plays to switch the momentum,” Petru said. “We fought hard all game. That’s all you can ask for. It’s not how you want to go out, but we fought hard all game.”
The Highlanders were without running back August Johanningsmeier, who was out with an injury. Petru did his best to fill in the gap, throwing for 263 yards and three scores.
But the Bobcats proved too much. They’ll play at Rockford for a Division 1 regional title next week.
Lewis praised his team’s effort.
“There’s no quit in Howell football,” he said. “We’ll always battle to the last whistle. That’s how we’re built. You come here to play at Howell, and you’re going to play at maximum effort, always, and our kids are a great example of that. They bought into that message. They believe in that message, and that’s the identity that this group, especially the senior class, has created. That’s their legacy.”