Updated: Oct 27, 2019
When a school is known for producing the level of talent that Warren G. Harding has over the years, it makes for some great conversations. This decade alone, guys like Lynn Bowden, Kay'Ron Adams, Hjalete Froholdt, and the Daniels brothers (LeShun Jr. and James) had their names inserted into those discussions, especially considering their accomplishments beyond the high school level.
Meanwhile, there's a humble junior quarterback wearing black and gold right now who is quietly in the process of obliterating Harding's record book.
Most Completions- Season... 136 by Michael Surin in 1981
-Elijah Taylor so far in 2019... 109
Most Completions- Career... 229 by Clayton Waite from 1986-88
-Elijah Taylor so far... 227
Most Passing Yards- Game... 366 by Elijah Taylor vs. Akron St. Vncent-St. Mary in 2019
-Taylor's 341 passing yards vs. Canton McKinley in 2019 also ranks second all time
Most Passing Yards- Season... 1,605 by Mike Surin in 1981
-Elijah Taylor so far in 2019... 1,566
Most Passing Yards- Career... 2,937 by Clayton Waite from 1986-88
-Elijah Taylor so far... 2,927
Most Passing Touchdowns- Season... 19 by Alex Engram (2003) & Lynn Bowden (2016)
-Elijah Taylor so far in 2019... ... 14
Most Passing Touchdowns- Career... 28 by Lynn Bowden from 2015-16
-Elijah Taylor so far... 27
Like any other individual accomplishment in football, Taylor's production this season has been the result of a collective effort from all eleven guys on the field. The offensive line provides solid protection, the wide receivers are getting open and making plays, the running backs are applying pressure on the ground and contributing in the passing game as well, etc. One may suggest that the ever-increasing role of athletic senior quarterback Marcus Brown has taken away from Taylor's numbers, but they haven't. Brown, who rushed for a career-high 114 yards this past Friday against West Toronto Prep, brings an extra dimension to the offense. That luxury that allows pressure to be taken off of Taylor. Not only that, Taylor would tell you that he's not out there to simply put up statistics. He just does what he has to do to put his team in the position to win, and more often than not, he's answered that call in impressive fashion.
Brown (407) and junior Elizah Smith (476) have both been solid on the ground while Emari Burgess has seen his usage rate go upas he has 306 yards worth of total offense himself. Nearly 1,000 of Taylor's passing yards are split between Ty Artis (644) and Tyirq Ivory (340), but nine different Raiders have caught passes this season. Artis' eight touchdown catches is the most by a Raider since current Akron Zip Jalen Hooks caught eight himself in 2016. Harding and Superbowl XLVI legend Mario Manningham set the school's all-time record in 2003 with 11 touchdown receptions, so that's another mark that fans can watch out for moving forward. Senior kicker Noah Murry has accounted for 60 points thus far, which includes nailing 9/11 field goals.
Defensively, senior Jarriel White Jr. had the signature performance of his career this past Friday against West Toronto Prep as three of his six solo tackles went for a loss, which includes sacking quarterback Yvenson Saintus in the end zone for a safety. It was an exclamation point by the defense on a night that saw them surrender just 48 rushing yards. Junior Jabari Felton also recorded a sack and leads the Raiders this season with five, which is the number of solo tackles that both Chester Adams and Da'Mari Freeman had against Prep. All of these efforts and more will be needed when the Raiders make a left just off of state route 82 to take on one of the more underrated programs in the Mahoning Valley.
Howland High School probably doesn't get the credit that they deserve for producing some of the area's greatest football players this century. Just look at their track record since 2000... Doug Datish (Ohio State, three-year NFL career), Maurice Smith (Michigan State/YSU), Tony Davis (Penn State), Tyler Scott (Northwestern), Lance Smith (Wisconsin/Memphis), Anthony Stanko (Penn State, Tommy Carnifax (current Northwestern Wildcat), and Trumbull County all-time leading rusher and former Miami Dolphin De'Veon Smith (Michigan) are all former Tigers who played in the Big 10 this century alone. That's more players than the average school sends to college in a lifetime, let alone to a major conference. Howland's program lacks the state titles that Harding, Youngstown Ursuline, Cardinal Mooney, and Warren JFK have brought to the area, so the Tigers usually don't get the respect that they deserve for molding their boys into men. That said, it doesn't take away from the standard that they have set for their youth, which is to reach far beyond the gridiron at the high school level.
This year, Howland is led by quarterback David Burman, who has thrown for 869 yards and 4 touchdowns. One of those scores was a 67-yard touchdown pass to senior speedster WIlliam Hines, who is averaging nearly 30 yards per kickoff return and has scored a total of six touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 receiving, 1 kickoff return) while also having an interception on defense. Junior Brayden Gibson has been a favorite target of Burman's as he's averaging over 25 yards per reception and has two touchdown catches while Ja'Wahn Dean has the other touchdown catch for Howland. The ground game will be led by tailbacks Eric Babinchak and Garrett Deemer and as suggested above, look for the Tigers to try to get the ball into the hands of Hines, who recently competed in the 100 meter dash prelims at the 2019 OHSAA State Track & Field Meet.
While Howland's 2019 season has been plagued by inconsistencies, their wins over Boardman, Poland, Younsgtown East, and East Cleveland Shaw display a huge improvement from their 1-9 campaign in 2018. As mentioned above, they have the playmakers to give their best shot to Harding, who is seeking to make their second consecutive appearance in the Division II: Region 5 playoffs. With the way things are set up, a win in Tiger Town on Friday is likely to write that ticket to the postseason, but looking ahead to week 11 isn't the best idea. Howland knocked off the same Boardman team that took Harding to two overtimes, so they need to focus on the task at hand this Friday.
LEEEEEEEEET'S GOOOOOOOO RAIDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERS!!!