Howard seeks to restore program’s former glory
Tony Zappia | Friday, November 13, 2015
It has been a year to remember for 7-1 Howard, as the Ducks return to Notre Dame Stadium to play in the interhall flag football championship for the first time since 2011.
Since claiming back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011 — the two seasons before the current Howard seniors arrived on campus — Howard has made the playoffs only once, losing in the first round last season.
The rebuilding process which followed the two championship seasons may not have led to much success at the time, but has paid dividends this season, senior Howard linebacker Sarah Philo said.
“We had a big freshman group from our class who played, and because there were so many freshmen, that’s really helped this year because we’ve all been playing for a long time,” Philo said.
Led by a core of returning players and helped by an influx of talented freshman, co-captain and receiver Maria Ianni said the Ducks knew they had the potential to compete for a title this season.
“We had a lot of returning talent, and we ended up coming up with some good freshman talent,” Ianni said. “We came in with the goal of making it to the stadium.”
Yet, earning a trip to the stadium did not always look promising for Howard. The Ducks started slowly, losing their first game of the season to defending champion Pangborn. And even once Howard began winning, the victories were not always convincing.
Senior co-captain and quarterback Stephanie Peterson said one of the most important moments for Howard on its road to the championship was its win over Pasquerilla East, who had beaten Howard on a controversial call last season.
“We really appreciated our win against [Pasquerilla East],” Peterson said. “We lost last year to them with a very controversial call in the last six seconds. I think [beating Pasquerilla East] gave us a lot of confidence.”
And beating Pasquerilla East gave Howard yet another reason to celebrate, senior running back Ashley Henry said.
“I mean who isn’t happy to beat Malik Zaire?,” Henry said.
With its confidence high, Howard ran the table in the regular season, finishing 5-1. The Ducks went on to earn convincing wins in the first two rounds of the playoffs, defeating Cavanaugh 13-0 in the first round and Ryan, 18-6, in the second. Late in the season, Philo said the defense has become the anchor of the Howard team.
“Our defense has been on fire recently,” Philo said. “We really clicked after the third game.”
On the offensive side of the ball Howard has found success this season through the use of a more creative scheme implemented under a new coaching staff.
“The coaches entirely redid our offensive scheme … and it’s really helped because it’s more intuitive,” Philo said. “Our previous scheme was very simple and it was hard to adjust if we saw the defense doing something, but [the new coaches] brought a lot of creativity to our plays.”
With the possibility of reclaiming the title it has not held since 2011, Ianni said there is a lot of excitement from former Howard players and coaches.
“Even our former coaches and some of our former players have reached out to us encouraging us,” Ianni said. “They’re going to Skype us before the game. It’s been awesome to have their support.”
This year’s team is well aware of the opportunity it has to bring Howard back to its former championship glory, Ianni said.
“The stadium has always been our goal because we’ve seen the posters hanging in Howard of previous teams; we’ve seen the trophies,” Ianni said.
Though the goal of making it to the stadium has been accomplished, this Sunday Howard will be looking to go even one step further to reclaim the championship.