And maybe more than anything for the Ohatchee coach, the 25-6 win was because of the second effort of his running backs.
Whether it was Justin Areno, Justin Mitchell or Josh Van Akin, first contact only seemed to make them stronger, using their size advantage over Victory Christian to not only take a two-touchdown lead at halftime, but to grind the game out when it mattered.
“All of them, they just did a great job,” said Howard, who lost his Ohatchee debut 22-14 last week. “They were giving such great effort, and trying so hard.
“Sometimes it got us in trouble, when they were trying to dig for extra yardage and lost the football, but they just got so many extra yards off contact.”
The two styles of football were in vast contrast to each other. With Victory Christian operating out of the spread, Ohatchee’s grind-it-out, hard-nosed style was able to wear on the Lions (0-2 overall, 0-1 region) and prevail in the end.
Areno finished with 23 carries for 134 yards, Mitchell added 74 yards on 11 carries and Josh Van Akin chipped in 70 yards on 11 carries and one score.
Victory Christian entered the game with five starters out due to injury. When all-purpose back Seth Green — who scored the Lions’ only touchdown — left due to injury, the second-half comeback the Lions were mounting fell by the wayside.
“They just overpowered us there at the end,” Victory coach Scotty Smith said. “I thought the guys did all they could do, it was just a numbers thing. We’ve only got 105 in our whole school.”
After getting off to a 13-0 halftime lead, Green’s 47-yard kickoff return to start the second half sparked Victory Christian. He took advantage of the good field position and capped the five-play drive with a 32-yard run to make it a one score game.
Attempting to spread the Indians out more in the second half backfired on the next drive.
Ohatchee freshman Heath Powell picked off the Victory Christian pass. Van Akin led the defense with nine solo tackles.
Victory Christian threatened once more, but during that time, Green got hurt, and without his help, the Lions had run out of bullets.
From there, the Indians (1-1, 1-0) went to their rotation of backs with Areno leading the way. He scored two second-half touchdowns on runs of 10 and 1 yards. His final touchdown came with 5:46 remaining and all but cemented the final.
“When I’m running, I’m thinking about everybody out there,” said Areno. “It’s for my teammates, my coaches, everybody.
“I’m just out there running it. It all goes to my offensive line — without them, I wouldn’t have gotten any of it.”
Ohatchee hits the road again next week as it travels to take on Section, which fell to .500 with a 49-28 loss to Sylvania.