Howard’s football team had a clean slate from which to work last season.
Following two winless seasons, Howard hired former Tattnall Square head coach Barney Hester to lead the Huskies’ program. And while Howard won just two games in 2013, the Huskies picked up those wins while starting a considerable number of sophomores.
One of those sophomores was JaQwun Stinson, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound running back who ran for 821 yards last season.
While breaking a 24-game losing streak was significant, many of the young players, including Stinson, see last year’s progress as just a taste of what they hope is to come.
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“That was really good, to have the younger kids come up and do stuff,” Stinson said. “The more reps, the better you’ll get. That’s what we did last year.”
The Howard team that opens the season Friday at Lamar County is a squad that showed some improvement on both sides of the ball last season despite its 2-8 record.
Defensively, Howard allowed nearly five fewer points per game and did not allow an opponent to reach 50 points all season, the first time that happened for the Huskies since 2009.
Offensively, Howard averaged 10.8 points per game. In 2012, Howard scored in double digits just once.
That’s where getting a bunch of extra work for the young players comes into play. Howard never has won more than three games in a season since fielding its first varsity team in 2008, and this group would like to do something about that.
In a scrimmage Friday, Howard’s first-stringers defeated Mount de Sales’ first team 30-0 in the first half played under game conditions.
“Coach Hester emphasized that we should be there every day (through the offseason),” said linebacker Abel Grant, who is expected to anchor Howard’s defense. “The workouts were important, and they prepared us for practice and then games. All those workouts will come into play come Friday night.”
Stinson, one of seven returning starters on offense, likely will be a big part of what happens on Friday nights for the Huskies.
“He’s pretty good, to be as young as he is,” Grant said. “He’s coming up. He has developed a lot, especially during the past (year).”