Willie Stewart returned the opening kickoff 93 yards and Tyner's Rams were off and running, ringing up 28 first-half points on their way to a 54-6 victory over winless Howard at Finley Stadium on Thursday.
"A return like that can be a back-breaker. It happened to us last week against East Hamilton," Rams coach Wayne Turner said. "You feel like you're playing uphill. It was a big jump-start for for us and helped us offensively."
Stewart wasn't through. His 47-yard interception return boosted the Rams to a 21-0 lead with 3:42 left in the first quarter, he threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to DeDrick Calloway early in the third period and then scored on an 11-yard run.
"It's my highest TD game of the year and probably my best defensive game," Stewart said. "They only completed one pass - a screen in my territory. The fumbles hurt us. That's something we need to work on."
The Rams had four fumbles and lost two of them, and they were stopped four times inside the Howard 30.
"Overall we had a good performance on both sides of the ball," Turner said. "It was a big improvement from practice, which was OK at best, but it was a short week and we had a JV game on Monday. It's probably the best we have played in seven or eight games."
The defense was especially tough, hounding Howard quarterback Tevan Jackson all night, and if not for his 79-yard TD pass to JerMichael Hardy, the Tigers would have finished in minus yardage offensively. The Hustlin' Tigers were held to minus-22 rushing yards.
In addition to Stewart's heroics, Tyner got two rushing touchdowns from burly Ed Duckett, a 2-yard scoring run from Hassan Miller and a 23-yard score from backup Kalin Hardley. Also, Mike Haywood was filling in on extra-point kicks and converted four of those.
The win keeps the Rams in the playoff hunt and sets up a huge home game against Red Bank, which is atop District 6-AA with a 5-0 record going into its game tonight at East Hamilton.
"We're still in the playoff picture, especially if we do well next week," Turner said. "Right now we're just trying to survive."