Courvoisier King and Jaqwun Stinson know all about the progression Howard has made under head coach Barney Hester.
As sophomores, they began to learn the system that Hester brought with him from Tattnall Square, the beginning of a process to reshape a program that went 0-10 in back-to-back seasons.
As juniors, they began to make Howard competitive. The Huskies went 3-6-1, the best season in the program’s seven-year history, but only two of the losses were blowouts.
Now, as seniors, they would like to help Howard take the next step, be it a winning record or a playoff spot.
As King and Stinson see it, there’s one thing they need to do: finish.
“We’ve grown a lot,” Stinson said. “We just need to be able to finish games. That’s what we’ve been working on, is to finish.”
King, a quarterback, and Stinson, a running back, were two players eyed early by Hester for the Howard backfield, along with another running back who will be a senior this fall, Antonio Jones.
Although Jones was hurt last year, King and Stinson picked up quality experience in the Howard backfield. Teaming with the now-graduated Tahjae Morant, the trio teamed up for nearly 2,000 rushing yards, with King passing for 680 yards.
“Having Jaqwun and Courvoisier, who are two leaders, two guys who do a tremendous job on the field, at practice making sure the other kids are doing what they need to do, it’s good to have guys who have started for three years,” Hester said.
A strong start bolstered Howard last season. The Huskies opened with a tie at defending GHSA Class AA runner-up Lamar County, then fell in overtime at FPD before holding off a Central team that made the Class AAA playoffs.
While posting wins over Rutland and Perry, it was the final three weeks of the season that left Howard hungry for the 2015 season.
The Huskies closed 2014 with three straight losses by eight points or fewer, dropping games to Upson-Lee, Veterans and Baldwin. Those losses helped define Howard’s offseason focus.
“We just want to finish out the season strong and finish out every game that we have,” King said.
Howard will be tested early. The Huskies open Aug. 21 at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex against Lamar County, then get another shot at FPD when the teams meet Aug. 27 -- a Thursday night -- at Mercer’s Five Star Stadium.
“Lamar County has a great program, has had a lot of success in the playoffs the past several years,” Hester said. “We play them at home this year, so we’re excited about that opportunity to go up against a quality football team and see where we are.
“I think (the FPD game) is going to be great for the community. It’s a great venue, first of all, but it’s going to be good to see the public and private schools playing and hopefully bringing in many (segments) of the community. Not necessarily just Howard or just FPD. It’s a Thursday night game, which should have a lot of folks there.”
ABOUT THE HOWARD HUSKIES
Head coach: Barney Hester (327-149-9 in 40 seasons overall; 5-14-1 in two seasons at Howard).
Assistant coaches: Milliard Vining (offensive coordinator); Adam Gillhouse (defensive coordinator); Jarrett Moore, Micha Taylor, Darrell Johnson, Richard Redding, Derrick Allen, Dennis Smith, Brad Lord.
Offensive scheme: Option.
Defensive scheme: 3-4.
2014 record: 3-6-1.
Region: GHSA 2-AAAA.
Returning starters: Seven on offense; five on defense.
Players to watch: Courvoisier King (Sr., QB); Tyjae Lockett (Sr., OL/DL); Jaqwun Stinson (Sr., RB/OLB); Alphonso Stephens (Sr., WR); Sean Walker (Sr., LB); Kendall Ragin (Sr., WR); Quintarious Jackson (Sr., SS).
Aug. 21 Lamar County
Aug. 27 vs. FPD at Mercer
Sept. 4 vs. Central
Sept. 11 vs. Rutland
Sept. 25 West Laurens
Oct. 2 at Perry
Oct. 9 Mary Persons
Oct. 23 at Upson-Lee
Oct. 30 Veterans
Nov. 6 at Baldwin