A crazy flip by Hartland running back Tommy Lappin is among the highlights from the Eagles’ 28-13 victory over Howell. Bill Khan
FINAL SCORE: Hartland 28, Howell 13
A year ago at this time, Howell headed into Week 9 trying to make the state playoffs (and did) and Hartland was trying to finish a disappointing season on a positive note.
Now it’s Hartland that is 4-4, hoping to win its final game next Friday at Plymouth and make the state playoffs as an additional qualifier.
And it’s Howell that will be playing out the string, falling to 1-7 after failing to sweep its two KLAA rivals from Livingston County.
“There’s one game left,” Howell coach Aaron Metz said. “You want to send your seniors out the right way. That’s what we want to do. We want to build our underclassmen for next year. We’re going to do everything we can to get ready to go and get a ‘W’ next week.”
Hartland has put itself in a position to extend its season by winning three out of four games after a three-game losing streak.
“All we can do is play next week and see what happens,” Hartland coach Brian Savage said. “See if we can muster up a win and see if we can sneak in at 5-4.”
HOWELL DOMINANCE ENDS
Howell had won the last four meetings between the M-59 rivals, last losing 24-12 in 2012.
Hartland’s seniors hadn’t beaten Howell at any level since their freshman year.
“Any rivalry game is extremely intense, especially right now when we need to win to have a chance at the playoffs,” Hartland senior defensive end Ethan Martin said. “This senior group, it’s been three years since we beat them. In that locker room, it was the most intense we’ve ever had. We beat them our freshman year, but that was it; it’s been a while.”
Even though Howell is struggling this season, the backdrop of the rivalry made this the Eagles’ biggest victory of the season.
“This is the one game I wanted to win all year,” Hartland senior linebacker-running back Tommy Lappin said. “I know a lot of the seniors felt the same way.”
HOWELL’S MOMENTUM FLEETING
Howell made two big plays, plays that could’ve turned the tide in the Highlanders’ favor.
But Hartland was able to settle things back down and regain control of the game after each play.
Howell opened the game with a 67-yard kickoff return by Luke Hovarter to the Hartland 27-yard line. The Eagles’ defense came up big, stopping Josh Lynch for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-2 from the 19. Hartland’s offense then moved quickly down the field to take a 7-0 lead on a 29-yard run by Lappin.
Hartland built a 21-7 halftime lead, but Howell got back in the game suddenly when the Highlanders recovered a fumbled snap by the Eagles in the end zone with 6:29 left in the third quarter, making it a 21-13 game.
It took Hartland only five plays to re-establish a two-possession lead, as Logan Tobel caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Collin Arnold to complete the scoring with 4:13 left in the third quarter.
“It was a good play and we were down one score,” Metz said of the fumble recovery. “We just didn’t get it done. Hartland played well and we make too many mistakes, too many turnovers. Three turnovers and you’re not going to win a game.”
CLUTCH PASSING GAME
Hartland’s preferred mode of transportation was by ground, as Lappin ran 18 times for 80 yards and a touchdown and Reece Potter ran 11 times for 78 yards and a score.
But when the Eagles needed a big play in the passing game, junior quarterback Arnold and his receiving corps came up clutch.
Arnold was 7-for-14 for 149 yards and two touchdowns to sophomore Tobel. Tobel had three catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns, including a 27-yard grab on third-and-17. Zach Linfield had three catches for 52 yards, making a 21-yard catch on third-and-5.
“Collin stepped up and trusted himself a little bit tonight,” Savage said. “Obviously, we’ve been going back and forth at quarterback. He made some big throws when we needed it. Logan and Zach Linfield and Reece had some nice catches. The kids stepped up when they needed to.”
FEROCIOUS PASS RUSH
Hartland came into the game with 31 sacks, adding five more to that total against Howell.
Martin, who shared the county lead of 10 sacks with teammate Andrew Singer coming into the game, recovered a fumble after one sack and he picked up two late in the game when the Highlanders had no choice but to pass.
“When you know they’ve got to throw and you’re on the D-line, you just pin your ears back and you just go,” Martin said. “Defensive end is the best position ever.”
First-year kicker Sydney Hughes always wanted to be on the football team. She gave it a shot as a senior at Hartland and went 4-for-4 on extra points in a 28-13 victory over Howell. Bill Khan