Senior Star Howland Converts to O-Line from Tight End, Helping to Lead the Charge as Hun Football Rolls in Opener
OFF AND RUNNING: Hun School quarterback Marco Lainez III races upfield in a 2021 game. Last Saturday, senior star and Iowa commit Lainez connected on 8 of 10 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns as Hun rolled to a 48-13 win over Mastery Charter in its season opener. The Raiders will look to keep on the winning track when they host Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada on September 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Logan Howland may have caught his last pass last year unless the Hun School football team uses a tackle-eligible play this fall.
With an eye on the future, the Raider senior will spend his final scholastic season at offensive tackle after playing tight end throughout his prior high school years.
“I think it was kind of inevitable,” said Howland. “When Coach (Todd) Smith reached out to me my junior year at Westfield he asked me if anyone was talking to me about playing offensive line. He’s seen that college coaches would see me as the new prototypical skinny guy that they can turn into an athletic offensive lineman. I think it was only a matter of time after the season to turn me into an offensive lineman. It was December or November he told me, you’re moving to the line and this is what’s going to get you paid a lot of money in college and hopefully in the NFL.”
Last Saturday, Howland and the Raider offensive line cleared the way and the defense was opportunistic as Hun rolled to a 48-13 opening day win over Mastery Charter. Hun led 27-0 after the first quarter on the way to the decisive victory.
“It was good to see a lot of guys on the field that didn’t get a lot of playing time last year,” said Howland, who will be headed to the University of Oklahoma next season to continue his football career. “We have to work on a lot of things and hopefully we’ll be a lot better next week.”
Hun will look to keep on the winning track when it hosts Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada on September 10. The Raiders will be looking for the rebuilt offensive line to continue to come together while finding ways to utilize a bevy of new talent at the skill spots.
“We have a lot of kids and there’s only one football to go around, but we’re going to do our best to spread it around,” said Hun head coach Smith. “We had a lot of people contribute today so that’s exciting. It’s going to keep making us better and harder to defend as the year progresses.”
Iowa commit Marco Lainez III completed 8 of 10 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, JT Goodman rushed for a pair of touchdowns while Kamar Archie scored on a 60-yard run. Six different Raiders had catches with Liam Thorpe and Logan Galletta receiving touchdown tosses.
Aidan Casuccio, Dante Barone, and Kole Briehler each had one sack apiece, and Owen Wafle had three tackles for loss. Goodman intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, and Briehler blocked a punt that Galletta recovered for a touchdown. Hun was able to get a taste of how this year’s team could come together.
“We have great balance,” said Smith. “Our personnel is broken up so that if we want to sit in the ‘I’ we have some really good fullbacks that could help clear the way, but if we want to spread it out we could put some really good skill guys on the field and attack people that way. We’re going to be a hard team to defend because you have so many different guys you have to cover.”
Utilizing all facets of its game, Hun raced out to a 48-0 halftime lead before getting everyone some experience during the second half. The Raiders are still sorting out how to use all their pieces to their potential, but were happy to get a look at their team against an opponent.
“We have a good core of kids coming back,” said Smith. “We just have a lot of the kids coming back playing in different positions. Even though we have a lot of back, there’s a lot of new faces playing at different spots. We’re fairly fresh into practicing and preseason camp and we were using it to make sure hopefully we were going in the same direction and hitting the right guys and lining up the right way. From that perspective we thought it was a good day.”
Howland and Illinois commit Zach Aamland are the lone returning starters from the offensive line, and both are in different spots. Aamland, a three-year starter on the line, moved out from guard to tackle while Howland has slid in from tight end to tackle.
“It’s going great,” said Howland. “The seniors are definitely looked up to by a lot of the younger offensive linemen. We’re a pretty small group but we try to take charge as much as we can. We demonstrate and mentor the younger guys as best we can do.”
Howland has been adjusting to his new role. After catching six passes last year as a tight end, he is helping to shore up the new look offensive line that Smith is molding.
“It was definitely tough the first couple months because I love playing tight end,” said Howland. “It was a fun position to play. But I think when it comes down to it, this was a position that I can excel at and succeed at. He’s had a lot of success turning tight ends into offensive linemen and putting offensive linemen into college football programs where they can succeed.”
In deciding where to play in college, Howland committed early in July to the Sooners under new head coach Brent Venables. He reportedly chose Oklahoma over such programs as Oklahoma State, Alabama, Michigan, and Stanford.
“It was definitely a busy month of June, a lot of visits going on, a lot of talking with coaches and they were asking me how my visits were,” said Howland. “I loved all my visits, especially Oklahoma. They have such a rich history of being a successful team and winning. Coach Venables coming back was definitely one of the big selling points, as well as Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh, their offensive line coach. He’s been doing it for a long time now and he’s one of the best if not the best at his position.”
Oklahoma liked what they saw in Howland, who is 6’7 and has added weight to reach the 280-290 pound range, where he’d like to stay before moving into college. He had a few colleges telling him he could continue at tight end, but they mostly said his future was at tackle.
“It’s a natural transition for a kid like him,” said Smith. “Everybody wants offensive tackles to be athletes, and that’s what he is.”
Howland played basketball last year for Hun at about 260 pounds, and college suitors liked the what he showed off the football field. It’s what helped raise his recruiting stock.
“We had a couple college coaches come in while me and one of my teammates, Owen Wafle, were playing basketball this season and they liked that we were athletic and able to move our feet and had good footwork,” said Howland.
“I think that definitely was a big selling point for me. As an offensive lineman, a big thing is footwork and foot speed. Obviously it helps with Owen, who’s a monster himself. I definitely think that basketball helped us.”
Howland is foregoing pass catching to focus on being a better blocker this year. He played tight end for three seasons at Westfield High before repeating his junior year and transitioning to Hun. He is adjusting to the demands of his new spot, working at engaging defenders with his hands, getting in a proper stance, and not lunging at them and allowing defenders to get by him.
“Run blocking is pretty much the same,” said Howland. “It’s similar to tight end, it’s just you’re blocking a little bigger guys and working more with the interior offensive line. But pass blocking is something I have to work on and improve at. It’s my first year really going against some of the best guys in the country that we have on our team, and they help me get better every day. Pass blocking is definitely the biggest part of my game that needs to improve.”
As the offensive line comes together, Hun’s offense should be even more potent. Howland sees the line progressing each day in practice and they won’t be resting on one lopsided win with plenty of challenges ahead. The Raiders line has been working to foster a bond with the entire line in bigger roles now.
“Communication is definitely key, being able to read defenders and get to your assignments, and just be coachable with coach Smith,” said Howland. “He knows what he’s doing and his plays obviously work for us very well and get the running backs a lot of yards. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing with coach Smith’s teachings.”
The Raiders are confident in their balanced attack. Howland, though, might be happier this year as an offensive lineman to see more runs called to give them a chance to show their strength.
“You definitely get to be more aggressive in the run game which is always great,” said Howland. “But at the end of the day, all we care about is winning so whatever we can do to do that — run, pass, five plays, 15 plays — as long as we get in the end zone we’re happy with that. We don’t care how many plays or what kind of plays we run as long as we win.”
It was a good start to the year Saturday in all regards, and Hun sees potential for another big season. The Raiders are trying to build on an 8-0 season in 2021 with a new cast of players and several returners like Howland who are anxious to prove they can succeed in new roles.
“We definitely did lose a lot of guys last year, a lot of our leaders,” said Howland. “But a lot of seniors have stepped up and we did bring in a lot of new guys and a lot of amazing talents, skill positions, offensive line, defensive line, so I think we’re pretty set on defense. We have a great front four, our linebacker corps looks amazing, the secondary is locking everyone up. And then offensive line is doing great, we obviously have a great quarterback and I think he’s going to be able to facilitate to our playmakers and we’ll go from there.”