September 14, 2005 - Most people at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy already knew Dallas Howell could play baseball. Now they know he's just as dynamic on the football field.
Playing in the first game of his high school career, the senior at the Class 2A school led the Lions to a 34-3 pasting of Phoenix's Northwest Christian Academy, behind a gritty, two-touchdown performance on both sides of the ball.
After Northwest Christian jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter, Howell put the Lions up for good with the first of his two touchdowns for the night, a four-yard ramble with 10 minutes to play in the second quarter. Starting at tailback, Howell carried the ball 18 times for 93 yards.
Also getting into the scoring act for Pusch Ridge (2-0 overall, 0-0 Central Division) with rushing touchdowns was senior fullback Daniel Thoss, with eight carries for 26 yards including a three-yard touchdown, and senior quarterback Ryan Morgan, who added a two-yard touchdown.
Morgan was 10 of 21 passing for 205 yards, his longest a 64-yard strike to junior wide receiver Tyler Akin, who took it in for the long score.
In an odd twist, the victory of Northwest Christian was the Lions' first win on the field but not its first of the year. This week, the Arizona Interscholastic Association granted Pusch Ridge a win after it was revealed that Scottsdale Christian played an ineligible player in the teams' match up Aug. 27 in Phoenix. The Eagles reported themselves to the AIA.
"It's a total turnaround from two weeks ago," said Pusch Ridge head coach David Brittain, who added that his squad's run defense was the team's biggest improvement. "We had our heads hanging a little bit low two weeks ago when we went to Scottsdale Christian, but they fixed things on all three parts of their game. A different team showed up today."
With the Crusaders trailing 27-3 and mounting a last-ditch drive, Howell sealed the win for the Lions by intercepting a Kyle Kennedy pass and taking it 49 yards for Pusch Ridge's fifth and final touchdown.
Despite having no one standing in his way, Howell almost didn't make it into the end zone. He flopped to the turf barely across the goal line.
"I didn't mean to dive," the senior said, laughing. "My legs gave out. Cramped up right on the one-yard line."
Howell's debut was delayed two weeks after he broke his index finger in practice a few weeks earlier. The fractured phalange forced him to miss the team's opener, a 43-15 loss to Scottsdale Christian.
The injury came one week after he fully healed from surgery on the same hand, a result of a baseball injury this summer.
Although it was his first high school game, Howell isn't a stranger to the gridiron where he last played while in eighth grade living in Texas. That didn't prevent the first game jitters, however.
"I was nervous all day yesterday," said Howell, "all day Wednesday and all today. The first play, though, I was fine."
Despite his two touchdowns, Howell's favorite score was the one that didn't count, an acrobatic leap into the end zone negated by a Lion holding call.
Howell's dominance on the field wasn't a surprise to all. Pusch Ridge head coach Dave Brittain saw flashes of brilliance in the team's workouts.
"In practice, he just looked incredible against our scout team," Brittain said, "so I thought 'Wow, this guy, he looks like he can run all over the place.' But you never know until you play another opponent."
Pusch Ridge will play host to a Bisbee squad on Friday that is out for revenge. Last year, the Lions knocked off their Southern Arizona counterpart in overtime to eliminate the Pumas from the state playoffs.
Tucson 12, CDO 27
At CDO: With the score deadlocked at zero heading into the half and the winds picking up, Canyon Del Oro High School's home opener against Tucson High School had all the makings of defensive struggle.
Enter Peter Romero, the Dorados' senior running back, who rushed for 80 yards and added scoring runs of four and 39 yards in the second half. For the game, Romero tallied 98 yards on 12 attempts.
Despite winning by 15 points, CDO (2-0, 0-0) struggled to regain its dominance from a week before: a 33-6 win over Scottsdale Saguaro High School.
"We didn't play to what we are capable of," Romero said. "Tonight was not a good game for us. Sloppy game. Very sloppy game. Our defense - I just don't know how many yards we let Tucson High get, and that just can't happen."
Senior quarterback Ryan Lush led the Dorados on 6 of 12 passing for 77 yards and, after two weeks, sits at third overall in passing in the Tucson metro area with 222 yards through the air.
CDO, which dropped down to the Class 4A this season, proved it still has what it takes to compete on the 5A level with the win over the Badgers (0-2).
"I still think we can play in the 5A," Romero said.
Next week the Dorados return to 4A, traveling to Amphitheater High School (0-2) to face the Panthers.
Apollo 37, Foothills 32
At Catalina Foothills: Coming off an emotional win over Cholla High School in the season opener, Catalina Foothills High School football team (1-1) failed to keep the momentum going in the second week against Glendale Apollo High School. The Hawks outlasted the Falcons 37-32. After a 19-point third quarter, Foothills couldn't find the end zone in the fourth. Senior quarterback Cole Mayfield scored twice and hit Vince Alentado for a 69-yard touchdown strike for Foothills, which fell short in the seesaw game.
"It was a matter of momentum," Foothills head coach Mark Brunenkant said. "They had it, we had it, and they had it at the end."
Foothills will try to regain that momentum Friday when the Falcons head to Santa Rita High School to face the Eagles.