Howard senior receiver Chaz Sydnor worked out frequently with Earnest Austin over the summer, striving to get the timing down with his sophomore quarterback.
Their chemistry was perfect on Thursday night, as Austin threw five touchdown passes – four to Sydnor – in the Wildcats’ 32-16 victory over Brandywine at Baynard Stadium.
“We’re a running team, but we can throw, too,” Sydnor said. “Earnest is coming along with his passing, and our line gave him time to pass. We just aired it out.”
Austin completed 11 of 18 passes for 231 yards. Sydnor caught six of those for 151 yards to up his season totals to 34 receptions for 523 yards and 10 touchdowns.
It was a critical victory for Howard, which likely earned a spot in the Division II playoffs. The Wildcats are guaranteed to finish 7-3 with a forfeit victory over Moyer Academy next week.
“According to my calculations, it does [get us in the playoffs],” Howard coach Dan Ritter said. “Where we fall remains to be seen, but we’re just happy to be there.”
Austin and Sydnor hooked up for the first time late in the first quarter, with Sydnor catching a short toss and breaking a tackle for an 8-yard score. Howard’s Raekwon Wells ended Brandywine’s next possession with an interception, and Austin threw a 30-yard fade to Sydnor for a 14-0 lead with 8:04 left in the second quarter.
“They gave me time. They were blocking,” Austin said of his offensive line. “I just threw it to Chaz, and he caught them and made touchdowns.”
The dynamic duo connected on another fade on the Wildcats’ next possession, with Sydnor hauling it in and zigzagging around a defender for a 57-yard touchdown and a 20-0 cushion at the half.
The Bulldogs (4-5) got back in it early in the third, as Anthony Ball recovered a Howard fumble at the Wildcats’ 20 and Tyrezz Walker bulled in on the next play. A two-point run by Stefon Johnson pulled Brandywine within 20-8.
But Howard responded with a 15-play, 50-yard drive. Sydnor caught a 15-yard touchdown pass but was called for pass interference to back up the Wildcats to a fourth-and-goal at the 30. It didn’t matter, as Sydnor snagged Austin’s pass down the right sideline and got his foot down in the front corner of the end zone to make it 26-8 with 10:07 to play.
“Going out as a senior, it’s great to feel this way,” Sydnor said. “We play hard. We’ve been the underdogs for a while now, so it was good to come out with a win.”
Austin wasn’t done, adding a 40-yard touchdown pass to tight end B.J. Wright with 3:35 left. The Bulldogs’ final TD came on Sayvon Willis’ 22-yard touchdown pass to Paul Groome.
Howard tailback Gerald Wiggins softened up the Brandywine defense with 23 carries for 124 yards before leaving due to injury early in the second half. The Wildcats outgained the Bulldogs 386-97.
“Coach told us this is a must win,” Austin said. “If we don’t win, then we’re out. We’re done. He told the seniors it was their last game if we don’t win, so we stepped up.”