Twins anchor center of Dowagiac defense

Published 7:40 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dowagiac’s Connor Howard (77) has enjoyed playing alongside his twin brother Tristan this season for the Chieftains. (Leader photo/File)

Dowagiac’s Connor Howard (77) has enjoyed playing alongside his twin brother Tristan this season for the Chieftains. (Leader photo/File)

It’s a moment Tristan Howard still regrets.

Connor Howard, Tristan’s twin brother, suffered a serious leg injury during football practice in the eighth grade at Dowagiac Middle School.

A play made by Tristan caused the injury. Tristan was an offensive lineman and Conner was on the defensive line.

Tristan Howard

Tristan Howard

“I’m sorry about what happened,” said Tristan. “It was my fault that it happened. He was beating me during practice. I cut blocked him. I didn’t mean to hurt him.”

Connor suffered a torn ACL and LCL and he also tore tendons in the arch of his right foot.

“When I went in for the MRI the ligaments were torn up,” said Connor.

Months of rehabilitation followed for Connor with him now being 100-percent healthy.

Connor and Tristan, who are juniors, have formed a special bond as brothers are standout defense tackles on Dowagiac High School’s rugged defense.

“It’s been a long road back,” Connor said. “I played as a freshman and I was no where near 100-percent. I did better my sophomore year and this year is my best year by far.

“It’s easy to play with my brother because we know each other’s tendencies on the field.”

“It’s awesome,” Tristan said about playing with his brother. “It’s great having my brother next to me on the defensive line. I trust him the most because he’s my brother.”

Behind the stellar play of the Howard twins and the defense, the Chieftains stand at 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the West Division of the Wolverine Conference. Dowagiac, which has qualified for the playoffs, can win its second straight outright division title with a win this Friday at Edwardsburg.

“The year has been a little rocky,” Connor said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries. People didn’t expect us to go far and they thought we would be mediocre. The season we’ve had shows we have players that can rally and work and be successful.”

Tristan, who’s 6-foot-1, 280-pounds, has totaled 27 tackles this year, including 12 solo and seven for a loss. He also has two quarterback sacks, a forced fumble, recovered two fumbles, blocked a punt and blocked a field goal.

Connor, who’s 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, has totaled 16 tackles this year, including seven solo and one for a loss.

Dowagiac, which returned only one starter on defense from last year, has allowed only 62 points. Opponents are rushing for only 68 yards a game and averaging around two yards a rush. Dowagiac is also only giving up 104 yards a game passing.

“They’ve done a great job this year,” said Dowagiac coach Mike Stanger about the Howard twins. “They clog the middle of the field up. It’s tough to run in between the tackles against us. They’re not just big bodies. They move well.

“They’re also strong in the classroom. Tristan is No. 1 in his class and Connor owns a 3.8 or 3.9 grade-point average. They’re always working hard. That’s why I expected success for them.”