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Senior Profile: Howard hoping to play football at next level
When opponents face the Pierce High football team, they must find a way to contend with the Bears' stout defense and their rangy tackling machine, Joe Howard.
In a varsity football career spanning 20 games, the senior middle linebacker has made 193 tackles, 100 of them solo. Roving behind a dominant defensive line anchored by senior nose tackle David Castaneda, Howard has been one of the top linebackers in the Sacramento Valley League the last two seasons.
"This is our third year in a row we've had a starting middle linebacker who also played as a junior — Chris (Tapia), Preston (Smith) and Joe — and he's handled the duties well and called out the defense, so it's real nice to have him out there," Pierce coach Scott Burnum said.
Not only does Howard run the defense, he is a dangerous weapon at tight end, earning all-league honors at the position last season. He is most dangerous in the red zone and has scored three touchdowns this year.
Burnum said Howard put in a lot of extra time in the weight room this summer because he hopes to continue his football career in college.
The college Howard has his sights set on is George Fox University in Oregon, which began putting together a football team this year and will play its first game next season.
"Right now, I'm trying to get into George Fox University in Oregon. It's Division III. ... Next year will be their first year of playing, so I figure I have a good shot at starting, so I might as well go up there," Howard said.
Howard also plays basketball and was on the track team last season but plans on dropping track this year to focus on football.
Growing up, he watched two older brothers, James and Matthew, go through the Pierce football program and remembers the team playing the same brand of defensive-minded football.
"When my brothers played, they ran the ball and had strong defense. I think that's just how Pierce is. It's how we're made: just smash-mouth football and hard defense," he said.
That style of play has the Bears sitting at 5-3 this year after going 11-1 last season in Howard's first year on varsity.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Pierce still has a shot at the league title — the Bears must win their final two games, against Live Oak and Willows — but Howard said the team doesn't think that far ahead.
"We just tell each other, do your job. If you do your job, you win," Howard said. "We play it week by week and keep moving forward."
CONTACT Kirk Barron at email@example.com