In the you-can’t-do-that department, the Sequoia Ravens witnessed one of the most exhilarating plays of their season from Jaymason Howard in Friday’s 27-0 win over Mills.
Howard looked like he was trying to set a long jump record as he hurdled a Mills defender to reach the end zone in the fourth quarter on the Ravens’ final possession of the night. Howard, of course, was flagged 15 yards for the maneuver. So, the senior running back promptly followed it up with a boring, 22-yard textbook sweep to score his third touchdown of the game.
“I didn’t know you couldn’t do that in high school football,” Howard said. “During the first, second and third (quarters), I noticed he was going for the legs. So, I just jumped to see if it would have went over or not. So, luckily he went low and I went high.”
Howard enjoyed a big night with 17 carries for 181 yards, with Sequoia (1-0 PAL Lake, 2-3 overall) totaling 294 rushing yards as a team. More importantly, the Ravens are off to a strong start in Peninsula Athletic League Lake Division play in preparation for the next test on their league schedule, an Oct. 15 showdown with undefeated San Mateo.
“Our mission is to win league,” Howard said. “Our hardest team at the moment would be San Mateo, and we’re going to work hard and see what happens.”
Mills (0-2, 0-4) is, admittedly, not the toughest test the PAL Lake has to offer. The Vikings are currently fielding a roster of 16 players, and relied on a sophomore call-up, sophomore Kai Hernandez, to take some late reps due to senor Fonzy Ortega dealing with a nagging leg injury.
Hernandez took three carries out of the wildcat formation in the fourth quarter, but his 53 yards rushing was enough to pace the Vikings. Mills gained just 130 total yards of offense.
“We have lack of personnel,” Mills head coach Kevin Thorson said. “We just needed an extra player so he just stepped up to do what he could. He’s kind of small and outsized but he did the best he could.”
Mills started with a head of steam though, taking the game’s opening possession downfield for a 17-play drive. The Vikings advanced across midfield with an 8-yard pass from Ortega to receiver Antonio Sacco. And after a 5-yard run by Ortega, quarterback Justin Kang connected with Sacco with a tight spiral for a 13-yard pass play.
But Sequoia quickly called a timeout to get its ducks in a row, and immediately put the brakes on the surging Vikings.
“The timeout was just a frustration, lock the kids back in,” Sequoia head coach Rob Poulos said. “They came in and their heads weren’t clear on that drive, obviously, which is why we were making mistakes. So, we didn’t change a single call. … They had started freelancing on some stuff and it was costing them nickel and dime, nickel and dime.”
Sequoia would ultimately force a turnover on downs at its own 30 and turned the tables on Mills. The Ravens opened with a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive, capped by an 11-yard scoring run by Howard.
The Sequoia defense keyed on Ortega for the rest of the night. The senior totaled just 19 rushing yards on 11 carries.
“We’d seen from film that he was their No. 1 threat, whether it was running or passing,” Poulos said. “We knew that he had to play both ways, so we figured the more that we could squeeze him on offense, the harder it was going to be for him to play defense. We were just going to force them to beat us some other way.”
“And, also, they were sending eight players at him on every play,” Thorson said. “They kind of figured that out … so you could see the difference.”
It took until the second half for Sequoia to find its offensive footing again. The Ravens were on the verge of scoring another first-quarter TD but fumbled the ball away at their own 3 when quarterback Thomas Flynn was levied by hit from nose guard Hunter Lawson and the Vikings came up with the turnover.
But turnabout was fair play when Howard picked off a pass by Kang in the closing seconds of the first half.
The Ravens opened the second half with a purpose though, promptly driving downfield and scoring on an 18-yard run by Howard to up the lead to 14-0. A three-and-out by Mills gave the Ravens the ball back, and they quickly drove 72 yards on nine plays, capped by a 9-yard scoring run by senior Dan Martinez.
Martinez carried six times for 72 yards.
Howard praised the offensive line — specifically guards Puamau Tuiaki and Aaron Melz, and tackle Baxter Joslin-David — for paving the road for the run game.
“They’re great blockers,” Howard said. “You could see — aggressive. Every day at practice I say: ‘If you guys are aggressive, we can beat any team in the [Lake].’”
Howard is a third-year varsity starter but made an early impression on Poulos. As a freshman, he made a move in practice by flipping his hips on a turn move that made the varsity coach realize he’d have an impact player for years to come.
“And I was like: ‘I don’t have a varsity kid who can flip his hips like that,’” Poulos said. “’If this kid wasn’t only a freshman, I’d be moving him to varsity now.’ And by sophomore year, he was playing for us on varsity. So, now he’s really getting a chance to do both.”
At 5-9, Howard isn’t the biggest guy, but he makes up for it with speed, agility and smarts, Poulos said.
“He’s athletic and he’s strong, he’s fine with the contact,” Poulos said, “and his body control means that he’s not taking a lot of big hits.”