Howells-Dodge football remained perfect on the season with a solid second half of defense to go with the offense's highest total of the season on Friday in a 50-27 victory over Lutheran High Northeast.
Combined with previously ranked No. 1 Burwell falling to Elm, Creek, Howells-Dodge was elevated to the top spot in Class D-1 by the Lincoln Journal Star.
But at first, it wasn't easy. Perhaps showing some signs of rust, the Jaguars trailed 20-18 at the half before scoring the next 32 straight points.
"The players really came out and executed the game plan in the second half," Howells-Dodge head coach Mike Speirs said.
Howells-Dodge scored 40 seconds into the game when senior Luke Rocheford took the ball from 26 yards out to take a 6-0 lead.
Lutheran answered on a 62-yard run a minute into the second quarter and made the two-point try for an 8-6 advantage.
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Howells-Dodge regained the lead five minutes later on a 6-yard pass from junior quarterback Jacob Tomcak to Rocheford but missed its own conversion attempt and settled for a 12-8 score.
The Eagles responded right away on their next drive then made it back-to-back drives with big touchdowns on a 65-yard run then a 62-yard pass for a 20-12 advantage with just eight seconds left in the first half. The Jags, not content to go in the locker room down two scores, made it 20-18 when Rocheford found Jacob Tomcak for a 55-yard catch and run.
Howells-Dodge took control for good on a punt return touchdown by Rocheford for 54 yards, scored again on Rocheford's 50-yard dash to the end zone then ended the quarter leading 42-20 when Levi Belina went in from 18 yards out.
Halfway through the fourth quarter sophomore R.J. Bayer caught a 20-yard pass from Tomcak to extend the lead to 50-20.
LHNE scored one more time to close the gap to 50-28, but with just 59 seconds left in the game, it was far too late to matter.
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net