In terms of keeping things on a routine, any team’s homecoming week typically has the chance to throw things out of balance. In the midst of events such as students voting for homecoming representatives and the powder puff football games, there is a game to be played Friday night.
But for Howard any lack of focus is easily zeroed back in by taking on Rutland on Friday at Henderson Stadium. The game might be a non-region matchup, but there is plenty on the line with two county foes facing off.
“Kids get up for in-town folks,” Howard head coach Barney Hester said. “Ever since I have been here, we’ve played all the in-town folks pretty hard, and I don’t expect that to be any different.”
Rutland’s week has been spirited. The Hurricanes are coming off of their first win of the season, a 34-28 victory over Northeast in double-overtime.
“Any time that you can come off a win, it’s better the next week, so it’s good for us this week,” Rutland head coach George Collins said. “There were some we learned last week. We let up against a good football team, and they stormed back on us.
“We learned that we better finish things and that nobody is ever out of something.”
Howard, already with wins against Bibb County opponents FPD and Central on the way to its first 3-0 start in program history, can run its record for 4-0 with a win. The Huskies have never won four games in a single season. That early success has infused excitement into the hallways of Howard High School.
“It’s been pretty awesome; there’s been more spirit and pride,” Howard running back JaQwun Stinson said. “We have teachers and students telling us, ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Good job’ and things like that.”
Despite that early success, the Huskies appear focused. Even with the temptation to look ahead toward vying for their first state playoff berth in a region that includes four teams that like Howard are also unbeaten to begin the season -- Mary Persons, Baldwin, Upson-Lee and West Laurens. The Huskies are off next week before playing West Laurens, Perry, Mary Persons and Upson-Lee in successive weeks.
“Our kids are about as focused as any bunch that I have ever had, and I’ve been through it with a bunch of kids. They are very proud to be where they are at right now,” Hester said. “They understand that this has come because of hard work. They understand that this coming Friday is a new experience and have to go out and win this one.”
That experience Friday will entail taking on a Rutland team riding a strong wave of momentum.
“Rutland has some skill guys that can break it; they probably have more speed that we do,” Hester said. “I think they’re a team that’s going to get better and better, but hopefully it’ll wait one more week before that happens.”