HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Howard loves workhorse role in Bandys offense

When it comes to toughness and making the tough runs count, few in the Greater Hickory area are better than Bandys High running back Ethan Howard. He carried 229 times last season./PHOTO COURTESY OF OBSERVER NEWS ENTERPRISE

INTERVIEW WITH ETHAN HOWARD VIDEO (by Myra Hobbs, photo/video/co-owner for HobbsDailyReport.com): ethan howard

INTERVIEW WITH TOM EANES VIDEO (by Myra Hobbs, photo/video/co-owner for HobbsDailyReport.com): eanes

Bandys went five straight seasons – from 2010 through 2014 – without a kickoff return or punt return for a TD… The Trojans’ longest kickoff return since 1980 came last year, a 99-yarder by Ja’Tay Culliver at Lake Norman Charter …Chris Gibbs had three return TDs, the most for the Trojans in a season, in 1999 – a 77-yard kickoff return against St. Stephens and punt returns for TDs of 60 yards against West Iredell and 61 yards against West Montgomery… Other Trojans with two kick or punt returns in a season in the previous 38 years: Zeke Kennedy, Jake Ratteree, Matt Oaks, Gibbs, Brad Hall and Brian Shumake.



CATAWBA – Ethan Howard is A-OK with spreading out the carries in Bandys High’s offense – the Trojans had four players with 53 or more rushing yards and five with at least 42 on Friday night – but he still wants the ball at crunch time.

That came in the fourth quarter at Butler Stadium with the Trojans down a point in Tom Eanes’ debut as head coach, and Howard delivered with two scoring runs as Bandys beat visiting St. Stephens 42-28 to win a season-opening game.

The Trojans won the first game of the year for the third time, the 10th time in 11 seasons and 16th time in 18 years.

After Blake Reynolds and Jacob Ellis had late-game interceptions with St. Stephens leading 28-27, the Trojans drove 56 and 47 yards for scoring runs of 3 and 19 yards by Howard to win.

Ellis was under center for the scoring drives — setting up the first score with a 13-yard run to the Indians 3 on second down and 13 – and he had an 11-yard gain on fourth-and-5 at the St. Stephens 30 to position Howard for another TD.

“We’re really good at getting our other backs involved … they are very good backs,” Howard said of the Trojans’ 408 rushing yards on 59 carries. “Our coaches get a very good rotation – getting us all in there – but I think it’s much the same (as 2017) when it gets to crunch time and its fourth-and-3 and we need it. It’s time for the workhorse.”

That’s clearly Howard, a 5-foot-10, 240-pound senior who often gains yardage even though everyone in the stadium knows he will get the ball. Many times, he does it after multiple hits and/or by dragging three or four defenders with him.

“When Ethan is going, everything else just feeds off that,” said Eanes.

Elijah Clark had 10 carries for 61 yards, Ellis added 56 yards on eight carries and starting quarterback Lake Hojanacki had 53 yards on six carries for Bandys.

The big night rushing helped the Trojans overcome a 236-yard passing night by Indians quarterback Connor Williams, whose mom (Angela) is principal at Bandys. He was the Trojans’ junior varsity quarterback last season and transferred to St. Stephens after working out with Bandys after Eanes came on board as coach.

Connor Williams, a 6-3, 180-pound sophomore, hit junior wide receiver Zach Lee (6-4, 180) nine times for 214 yards and three scores – 39-yarders down the left sideline when Lee beat single coverage both times – and a 68-yarder with four minutes, eight seconds left in the third quarter.

The last throw came about 2 ½ minutes after St. Stephens’ Zac McLauchin had returned a kickoff 84 yards for a TD, pulling the Indians within 27-22.

The last Williams-to-Lee TD left St. Stephens up 28-27 after a running attempt for a two-point conversion failed.

St. Stephens rallied from a 21-0 deficit that included a rarity for Bandys – a game-opening 89-yard kickoff return for a TD to open the scoring in the first 14 seconds and a 59-yard punt return TD by Isaiah Talbert.

In information dating back to the 1981 season, Bandys had never before returned a kickoff and a punt return for TDs in the same game. Talbert’s punt return TD was the Trojans’ first since Matt Oaks went 66 yards with one against Fred T. Foard in 2004.

With 8:23 left in the first quarter, the Trojans led 14-0 and their multiple set offense hadn’t run a play.

“It was nice to have a two-TD lead without our offense having to run a play,” said Howard, who characterized the Trojans’ run game as a bit “ugly” at times.

“As long as it’s gaining yards or not a fumble or losing yards, if it’s ugly it’s OK at the moment until we fix it,” Howard said.

That effort begins at practice Monday as Bandys prepares for its first road game of the year, at Fred T. Foard (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Howard is expected to continue in his workhorse role as he climbs Bandys’ career rushing list. He gained a modest 117 yards on 13 carries as a freshman, added 720 yards as a sophomore and had 1,398 yards and 12 rushing TDs last season.

Friday’s 100-yard game was the 14th of Howard’s career and third straight against the Indians, against whom he has 68 carries for 454 yards and six TDs. Unofficially, he has 2,396 career rushing yards and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

“I love the pressure,” Howard said of taking the ball when games are being decided. “I was thinking (Friday night) ‘Just give me the ball coach’ and we were on the same wave length.”


Eanes picked up his 148th career win, starting his 30th season as a head coach, and only one other head coach in the Greater Hickory conferences – Hickory’s Russell Stone (268) – has more career victories … Williams passed for more yardage in his debut than the Indians did in any other game last season, when their high was 213 … Two of Howard’s top three rushing games have been against the Indians, as he had 186 yards on 32 carries in the 2017 season opener won 42-40 in OT by Bandys… Bandys now leads the all-time series with St. Stephens 34-22, winning three straight in the series, 11 of the last 12 and 15 of the last 17 … The Trojans are 27-10-1 on season-opening games since 1980 … St. Stephens has lost its first game nine times in the last 10 seasons and has won six first games in 39 years… The Indians’ 10 wins in the series include six at Butler Stadium.

St. Stephens             0   16   12     0—28

Bandys                      14     7    6    15—42


First quarter

B—Jacob Ellis 89 kickoff return (Ben Joseph kick), 11:45

B—Isaiah Talbert 54 punt return (Joseph hick), 8:23

Second quarter

B—Isaiah Talbert 14 run (Joseph kick), 11:51

SS—Zach Lee 39 pass from Connor Williams (Blake Baker pass from Williams), 11:06

SS—Lee 39 pass from Williams (Baker pass from Williams), 8:23

Third quarter

B—Lake Hojancki 1 run (run failed), 6:39

SS—Zac McLauchin 84 kickoff return (pass failed), 6:27

SS—Lee 68 pass from Williams (run failed), 4:08

Fourth quarter

B—Ethan Howard 3 run (Ellis run), 8:40

B—Howard 19 run (Joseph kick), 2:02

                                                         SS                   BANDYS

First downs                              12                           19

Rush-yards                              22-67                     59-408

Passing                                     13-27-3                 2-3-0

Passing yards                          236                        16

Total offense                           303                       424

Fumbles-Lost                         1-0                         5-2

Penalties-yards                      11-70                     13-144



SS: Williams 2-minus 11, Baker 6-10, Xavian King 13-65, Nathaniel Vera 1-3; B: Talbert 6-42, Joshua Williams 7-29, Howard 20-161, Elijah Clark 10-61, Hojancki 6-53, Ellis 8-56, Hunter Jones 1-8, Team 1-minus 2.


SS: Williams 13-27-3 236; B: Hojancki 2-3-0 16.


SS: Lee 9-214, Chance Benfield 4-22; B: Carson Sigmon 1-9, Clark 1-7.

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