Barney Hester thought his team needed to make something big happen in the opening moments of its game Thursday to beat West Laurens.
Howards head coach watched the opposite happen.
The Huskies turned the ball over twice in the first quarter, and West Laurens capitalized.
The Raiders (2-5, 1-3 GHSA Region 2-AAA) scored touchdowns within three plays of both turnovers and used the momentum to roll to a 35-7 region win on a soggy evening at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex.
Thats something weve lacked the last few weeks, West Laurens head coach Stacy Nobles said. Weve been very, very close to winning. Our record could be better than it is, but we havent made enough plays. Thats what you have to do in this league. Youve gotta make plays.
The Huskies lost a fumble on their first play from scrimmage -- the Raiders scored on the next play on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Garrel Quainton to Justin Smith -- and fell behind 14-0 in the first four minutes of the game.
Were not good enough offensively, or defensively really, to get in a hole, Hester said. We got in the hole early, and its hard to dig out.
Howard (2-4, 0-4) did battle back, marching on an 11-play drive that ended with Courvoisier King finding Keiondre Wedderburn on a 5-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2 late in the first quarter to cut the Raiders lead to 14-7.
The Huskies defense forced a three-and-out and the momentum appeared to turn.
Two plays after a West Laurens punt, King was intercepted by Nick Turner, who returned the ball to the Howard 2. Quainton scored on a quarterback sneak two plays later, and Howard went from having a chance to tie to trailing by two touchdowns.
The Raiders took over from there. The defense didnt allow a first down in the second quarter, and the offense stretched the lead to 28-7 on a touchdown pass from Quainton to Calvin Walker at the start of the quarter.
Howard moved the ball to open the third quarter, but the Huskies drive halted when King was sacked by Legarion Young on fourth down at the Raiders 35.
West Laurens punctuated its solid performance with a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown run by Turner on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Our kids are resilient; theyre going to fight til the end, Nobles said.
Both teams entered the game looking to shake off the funk from four-game losing streaks. The game also likely served as an elimination game for playoff hopes. The Raiders are going to need to go on an impressive winning streak to have a chance at a playoff spot, while the Huskies virtually eliminated themselves with seven teams ahead of them in the standings.
Youve got a four-game season, Nobles said. If you want to make the playoffs, then youve got to win all four.