The 2013 football season for Howe High School began on April 18 with the hiring of former Weimar head coach Zack Hudson. After rebuilding a program that had fallen on hard times in south Texas, Hudson wanted to come back to his north Texas roots.
The Howe football program was in disarray, with back-to-back 2-8 campaigns in the books.
Hudson brought in several new coaches with him and together they began the process of bringing Bulldog football back to prominence.
One of the first encouraging signs was the growth in numbers at the preseason football camp; nearly 80 youngsters reported for the late summer camp at Bulldog Stadium, a marked improvement over previous attempts to generate enthusiasm for the sport.
If you measure success strictly by wins above losses, 2013 will not go down as a watershed year. If, however, you measure success by changes in chemistry or optimism, then you can see progress.
The Bulldogs kicked off the 2013 season with a 9-5 win over Lindsay, one year after being hammered 49-13 by the Knights. The defense came up big in this one, stopping a pair of drives deep in Howe territory. Quarterback Quinton Harris scored the only touchdown of the contest on a 14-yard, fourth-quarter run. Harris finished with 114 yards on 13 carries.
Howe could not stop the passing attack of Chisum’s Nick Tisdell in its home opener. The tall left-hander threw for 380 yards, four touchdowns and ran for another in a 44-33 win. Harris passed for 189 yards and rushed for 96 and Howe trailed by just three points heading into the fourth quarter in the Chisum loss.
It was homecoming the following week and the Bulldogs rewarded a sellout crowd with a 31-0 win over Whitewright. In a effort to bolster the back end of the Howe defense, quarterback Quinton Harris was shifted to the defensive backfield.
"We wanted to get better on that side of the ball and we felt Harris would help us more back there," Hudson said after the game.
Junior running back Anthony Hawthorne came off the injury list and rushed for 173 yards against the Tigers. Senior linebacker Brady Smith, coming off of a 15-tackle performance in Lindsay, picked up a Whitewright fumble and returned it 25 yards for Howe’s second touchdown of the night. A Zach Lea interception in the fourth quarter preserved the shutout.
The competition got a lot tougher over the next two weeks as a trip to Gunter closed out the non-district portion of the Howe schedule.
The always tough Tigers blanked the Bulldogs 19-0. Howe could not muster any offensive momentum and that exposed the defense to too many snaps against the Tigers.
The shutout streak was extended as Pottsboro came away with a 28-0 win in the District 6-2A opener.
Howe could not capitalize on an early Pottsboro miscue at the Cardinals’ 36-yard line. Five consecutive runs by Hawthorne and a 12-yard run by Joaquin Lopez gave Howe a first down at the Pottsboro 12-yard line. The Cardinal defense stopped that drive and the Bulldogs could not finish a pair of lengthy drives.
After a bye week, Howe traveled to Farmersville where the Farmers proved to be too tough in a 55-13 blowout.
Howe had six turnovers in the contest and that doomed any upset plans for the Bulldogs. Zach Lea had a second-quarter touchdown run to stop a scoreless streak that had reached nine quarters.
The Bulldogs got an excellent defensive performance the following week as they hosted Caddo Mills. The Foxes were coming off of a 400- plus yard outing against Pottsboro the previous week and the Howe defense held them to just over 200 yards. Howe was leading 7-6 going into the final five minutes of action, but could not hold off the Foxes, losing 12-7.
Howe traveled to Commerce in week seven of the 2013 season and, for the first time since November 4, 2011, the Bulldogs won a district game.
How do you measure progress again? After a determined effort had fallen short the previous week against Caddo Mills, would the Bulldogs crumble?
Hardly. Led by the passing of quarterback Joaquin Lopez, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third, all in the first half, Howe prevailed 26-6. Anthony Hawthorne carried the ball 18 times for 118 yards, his fifth consecutive 100 plus yard effort of the season.
At Van Alstyne the following week, the Bulldogs were no match for the Panthers as VA continued its Silver Spike dominance with a 31-7 win.
Howe was unable to capitalize on drives deep into Panther territory and it cost them. Four trips inside the Van Alstyne red-zone produced nothing for the Bulldogs, but their defense was keeping them in the game.
Van Alstyne running back Dont’e Kehler capped a 70-yard, first quarter drive, scoring from 25 yards out and the Panthers took that 7-0 lead to the halftime break. Van Alstyne was unstoppable in the second half, putting points on the board in each of its first four possessions.
Howe moved the ball well at midfield, but could not finish drives.
"We are just not good enough to give away downs like we did tonight." Hudson said afterwards.
Former Bulldog player Will Brogdon, who transferred to Van Alstyne over the previous summer, was excited about playing against his old team.
"I’ve still got a lot of good friends over there and I wanted to come out and play well against them." Brogdon told us after the game.
Sunnyvale quarterback Ryan Cottingame was too much for the Bulldogs to handle in the season’s final tilt as the Raiders got the win to finish Howe’s 3-7 season.
Dallas Cowboy’s coach Jason Garrett likes to talk about a "process" and after watching most of Howe’s games this season, we can see what he means. Rebuilding a program is not an overnight deal. It takes time, support and patience.
It’s a process.
For a sixth-place team, the Howe Bulldogs did alright in the postseason honors department. Seniors Brady Smith, Zach Lea and Bryce Mosier were placed on the first team of the District 6-2A, All-District team.
Anthony Hawthorne, Joseph Hawthorne,Charlie Overbey, Ramon Fierro and Jake Akins were second-team picks.
Honorable mention awards went to Levi Mrozinski,Ty Portman,Stratton Carroll, Matt Griffin and Tyler Gresham.
All-academic honors were given to Akins,Gresham,Mrozinski,Blake Burnett,Tanner Ford,Triston Matthews, Tyler Morrow, Kiefer Rodgers and Easton Ross.
The all-district picks given to Brady Smith, Jake Akins, Ramon Fierro and Bryce Mosier were repeat awards from the 2012 All-District team
Moving forward, Hudson will have to replace his two coordinators as Danny Barber and Nick Grimes have moved on.
The Bulldogs will play in Class 3A, Division 2 next season in District 5 along with Gunter, Leonard, S&S,Tom Bean and Whitewright.