COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Elijah Howard leapt and looked to the late-afternoon sky, twisting in light, displaying his anger.
As an eighth grader with a ways to go before being able to test for a driver's license, emotions on a football field are to be expected. However, it wasn't a typical reaction. The projection was that of a competitor falling just short of a team goal, a sign that the thirst to win will only strengthen. That's advanced for someone who still has four years of high school football to go.
Howard scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to put Webb School of Knoxville ahead of Lausanne Collegiate School 9-6 with 4:59 to play in the TSSAA Division II Class A state championship game on Thursday.
Lausanne running back Eric Gray is considered one of the Volunteer State's top young backs and is gradually climbing onto the recruiting radar of college coaches in the 2019 class. He's two classes older than Howard. Gray found the end zone on a 5-yard TD run of his own, giving the Lynx the go-ahead score and a 12-9 win over Howard's Spartans.
As though he was a senior that would never again put on pads, the loss bothered Howard, who gained a scholarship offer from the Tennessee Volunteers before one snap on the prep level.
"The biggest thing about him is he is humble naturally," Webb coach David Meske said. "He works hard every day. He doesn't come in and say, 'Listen, I'm a great player.' He's going to be very special because every day he works. He's not living in the past. He's not living on his greatness as a middle school football player. And he's a nice kid. I'll take that any day."
On 13 carries, one reception and two kickoff returns, Howard totaled 90 yards in his 2016 finale. As a defensive back, he also forced and recovered a fumble.
Stay tuned for much, much more coming from Howard.