HOWLAND - When Howland's star running back De'Veon Smith managed just 31 yards on 10 first-half carries, Tigers coach Dick Angle thought about cutting him.
Now that Howland fans have nearly choked on their morning donut, they should know that Angle was only joking. It was easy for Angle to laugh after Smith turned a sub-par first half into a 206-yard, three-touchdown second half in the Tigers' 28-20 win over the Hubbard Eagles in an All-American Conference, American Division game at Lombardo Field.
Nearing 100 percent healthy after hurting a shoulder two weeks earlier against Warren G. Harding, Smith put on a show in the second half. Included in his act were a 72-yard touchdown run and a 53-yard run that set up the third of his four rushing scores.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Howland’s De’Veon Smith (4) rushes across the goal line for a late second-quarter touchdown as Hubbard’s Zach Hover (53) tries for the tackle but fails. Howland won, 28-20
"That's why he's the best back in Ohio," Angle said.
The Tigers improved to 3-1 and 1-0 in the AAC. The Eagles are 3-1 and 0-1 in the AAC.
Smith had to come up big after Hubbard took a 12-7 lead in the third quarter on a 28-yard pass from quarterback Brandon Harb to Aries Shaw. The pass for the extra two points failed.
The Eagles were back in Tigers' territory on the next possession when Alex Mosora recovered a fumble by quarterback Eric Lockney at the 38. All hopes of increasing the lead vanished when the Eagles were penalized twice on the same play for 25 yards.
Smith, who finished with 237 yards on 23 carries, began to impose his will on the Tigers' next possession. He carried the ball four times for 40 yards on a 50-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a 32-yard run.
Smith added touchdowns on runs of 5 and 72 yards in the fourth quarter to help give the Tigers a 28-12 lead.
"That's a great team we just played against," Smith said. "I want to give credit to them, and I want to give credit to my offensive line. They really wore down their defensive line."
The Eagles added a touchdown on an outstanding 51-yard run by Harb. Harb then passed to Larry Scott for the extra two points.
Hubbard regained possession at its 27 with 1:39 remaining to play after a punt. Harb, who rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries and completed 11-of-20 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown, completed two passes and ran for 11 yards to move the ball to the Tigers' 22. A penalty on Howland put the ball at the 12, but the Eagles couldn't get beyond the 8 before turning over possession.
"I'm extremely proud of the effort," Eagles coach Brian Hoffman said. "It was a great game. They battled for four quarters. We had our shot at the end and we came up a little short. From the way we played a week ago to the way we played a week later is a testament to the job the players did in practice and the coaches did in preparing for this game."
It was a battle between Smith and Harb to see which of the two would have the biggest plays. Harb's 51-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-3 was a thing of beauty. He made one defender miss at the line of scrimmage and then weaved his way through two more players farther down the field before diving into the end zone.
"His last run was an unbelievable effort," Angle said. "That was a gut effort by him. He was exhausted; he was tired. We chased him around and did a lot of things to make him uncomfortable. To make that run late in the game shows what kind of competitor he is. He did that run on his own."
Harb's lone mistake came when he underthrew the ball on a pass that was intercepted by Chris Maze at the Tigers' 4 on the Eagles' opening possession. Hubbard began the scoring later in the first period on an 18-yard run by Darnell Tate.
The Tigers followed with a 7-yard touchdown run by Smith. Kyle Noble's point-after kick gave Howland a 7-6 lead.
One play before Smith's score Lockney took a pass from Cope behind the line of scrimmage and then hit Cope, who was streaking down the middle on a double-pass play.
"That was a gutsy play," Cope said. "It worked out pretty well. He (Lockney) threw a great ball. Good blocks. Everything went perfect on that play."
Howland hosts Watertown District Friday. Hubbard is home to face Struthers Friday.