High School Sports

Haunted by mistake as a junior, Catholic running back enjoying big senior season

Charlotte Catholic running back Milan Howard averages nearly 8 yards per rush for the Cougars.
Charlotte Catholic running back Milan Howard averages nearly 8 yards per rush for the Cougars. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Catholic senior running back Milan Howard said he’s having the kind of football season he hoped to have.

Howard has been bothered for nearly a year by a play in Catholic’s 2016 state 4A semifinal loss to Greensboro Dudley.

Catholic trailed 13-10 and was driving with 6 minutes left. Howard fumbled and Dudley’s Awstyn Williams returned it 84 yards for the final score in Dudley’s 21-10 win.

Catholic’s coaches and fans felt Howard’s knee touched the ground before the ball came out, which meant the Cougars would have kept the ball. One game official pointed to the spot where the ball appeared down. He was overruled.

Charlotte Catholic running back Milan Howard celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown against Charlotte Christian this season. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

“Everybody knew I was down,” said Howard, who is 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds. “I didn’t enjoy that feeling of losing and I dedicated myself 100 percent and decided I was going to become faster, stronger, smart and be able to do whatever I needed to do to make my team win.”

In a season in which running backs seem to have returned to prominence throughout the Observer’s coverage area, Howard’s having a big year. He’s rushed for 423 yards and five touchdowns, averaging nearly 8 yards per carry for the Cougars (4-0), who are No. 3 in the Observer’s Sweet 16. Catholic will face Monroe (3-1) at home Friday night.

At a scouting camp at Hough High this season, Howard ran an electronic 4.4-second 40-yard dash -- elite speed for a college recruit -- and has offers from Chattanooga, Eastern Kentucky, East Tennessee State, Elon and the Citadel. He’s drawn interest from East Carolina and North Carolina.

Howard insists he’s not nearly done this season.

“I’ve been training for this since the Dudley game ended,” he said. “The result against Dudley wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to ensure I win a (3A state championship) ring this year.”