High School Sports

Howard Huskies in state playoffs for first time

The Howard Huskies finally did it.

After a golden opportunity to make the GHSA state playoffs two years ago, only to lose the last game of the year and just missing out, the Huskies are heading to the playoffs for the first time in the school’s existence.

Howard (6-4) will go on the road to meet Americus-Sumter, the No. 1 seed from Region 1-4A.

“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make the playoffs and the road was tough, but we are in,” said Howard head coach Barney Hester, whose team was coming off a one-win season a year ago. “We were a little unsure coming in to this season because we were very inexperienced on the offensive side of the ball, but our guys have continued to work hard and get better.

“I really can’t say enough about our defense, because we look at them and sometimes we just say how we are stopping anyone? But those guys are just relentless, and they play over their heads every single game.”

Howard has had its share of close games this year. It trailed Central early in the year by two touchdowns with two minutes left and found a way to win, and the last four games have been decided by a total of seven points. Howard beat Perry 29-27 and Upson-Lee 22-21, but ended the season with close losses to Spalding County and Mary Persons.

“I think the record and the scores show that we are always competitive and we are never satisfied with losing,” Hester said. “I mean we were four points away from winning a region championship, but we weren’t quite ready for that. But we are making progress, and we are heading in the right direction.”

Asked about leadership on the team, Hester was quick to come up with a few names. “Quentavious Morant, our nose tackle, has been a very vocal leader from day one, and so has Donovan Brantley,” Hester said. “It seems like the defense has more of the vocal leaders on the team.”

Offensively, the Huskies are led by Jeremiah Kelley, who has 1,020 yards rushing this year, and quarterback Quintin Sewell, who has thrown for 639 yards and rushed for another 439.

Howard faces a difficult task, going on the road to play Americus-Sumter, which is 8-2 on the year.

“They have a very good quarterback (Kierston Harvey) who can really throw the ball, and they have a very big offensive line that protects him,” Hester said. “This is playoff football, though, and everyone is good, and right now we don’t care who we play. We are just excited about the opportunity. We know that we have played a difficult schedule, and in the playoffs anything can happen.”