Howard dominates, goes back-to-back in Division II football
DOVER – The details were different throughout the season, but the final result was the same.
For the second straight year, the Howard Wildcats walked off the field holding the DIAA Division II football trophy aloft.
Howard dominated from start to finish on Saturday night at Dover High School, overwhelming Archmere 42-6 to earn back-to-back championships.
“This year was just really, really special,” Wildcats coach Dan Ritter said. “Just from the whole COVID scene, to losing a couple of kids to transferring, to coming together and finding a way to play seven games. And then to keep it together for the playoff run was just pretty impressive.”
Howard finished 8-0, five games fewer than last year’s 12-1 performance in a coronavirus-shortened season. But the Wildcats left no doubt in the championship game, which made this one even more enjoyable.
Last year, Howard recovered a late fumble and managed to run out the clock for a 16-15 win over Woodbridge. This time, the Wildcats initiated the running clock – which kicks in when one team holds a 35-point margin in the second half – with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
“This one was way more fun,” Howard two-way star Kevin Ignudo said. “Last year, we didn’t know if we were going to win or not. The fumble happened and that’s when we ended up winning. This game was way better than last year’s.”
The second-seeded Wildcats held top-seeded Archmere (8-1) to two first downs in its first three series. Meanwhile, the Howard offense operated with cool efficiency on a 30-degree night.
Keshaun Watson capped a six-play drive with a 7-yard run. Then Ignudo made a leaping, 28-yard catch and ended a nine-play drive with a 1-yard run. Then Watson scored from the 14 on the ninth play of the next drive.
The Wildcats’ two-point conversion machine was broken (they went 0-for-7 on the night), but that was the only thing missing. Howard led 18-0 with 7:56 left in the second quarter, and Archmere was in big trouble.
“It puts pressure on the opponent so fast,” Ritter said. “They have to play catch up, and some of the things that they do well, they have to come out of.”
Ignudo ended two of the Auks’ first-half drives with interceptions. Then the Wildcats really got it rolling in the third quarter.
Mike Brock’s blocked punt set up a 28-yard drive capped by Ignudo’s 16-yard burst. After a short punt, Tyair Spencer got behind the Archmere defense and caught Donovan Cartwright’s 54-yard touchdown bomb.
Then Spencer took a short pass from backup QB Rahsaan Matthews and sprinted 72 yards for another score to make it 36-0.
“I caught that and I knew I was faster than everybody else,” said Spencer, who finished with four catches for 165 yards. “I just blew by them.”
The Auks finally got on the board on Chris Albero’s 5-yard pass to Michael Mallamaci. But Ignudo ended all doubt with a 92-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Howard outgained Archmere 501-159. And even with all the offensive fireworks, Ritter said his defense stood out most.
“I thought last year, we were better skill wise,” Ritter said. “I think this year, our linemen just came to play.
“… Those guys, they just love the competition. They love the hitting. They just love it all.”
Ignudo finished with 13 carries for 182 yards and three scores, while Watson carried nine times for 63 yards and two TDs. Cartwright completed 8 of 15 passes for 193 yards and a score.
Albero rushed for 66 yards, passed for 54 and broke up at least three passes in the secondary for Archmere.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ
DIAA Division II championship
Howard 42, Archmere 6
Howard 12 6 18 6 – 42
Archmere 0 0 0 6 – 6
H – Watson 7 run (run failed)
H – Ignudo 1 run (pass failed)
H – Watson 14 run (run failed)
H – Ignudo 16 run (run failed)
H – Spencer 54 pass from Cartwright (run failed)
H – Spencer 72 pass from Matthews Jr. (run failed)
A – Mallamaci 5 pass from Albero (run failed)
H – Ignudo 92 run (pass failed)