After a week five loss, Red Bank's football season was on life support, but the Lions reeled off their third straight win Friday night.
They topped Howard 21-14 to even their record and move headlong into a two-week battle for the District 6-AA championship.
First up, East Hamilton. Then Tyner.
It's a much more confident Red Bank team that faces those next two games. Winning tough games like Friday's game at Howard will help, according to Lions coach E.K. Slaughter.
"We didn't have a real good mental game after that Cleveland loss," he said. "We were 1-4 and not playing very well. But we've come together, fought hard, and now we have a chance to reach our goals."
Red Bank (4-4, 4-1) got off to another slow start. Chris Walton gave Howard a lead with a 77-yard punt return early in the first quarter, then followed that up with a 79-yard run from scrimmage early in the second quarter. That would be all the points the Lions surrendered.
Lions quarterback Hagen Wilkey hit Michael Robinson on an 18-yard scoring pass, and Darrius Akridge scored on a 7-yard run with 1:29 remaining to square the game at 14 at halftime.
With 4:04 left in the third quarter, Akridge scored what would be the game-winner from 9 yards out.
Any attempt Howard (2-6, 2-3) made to get its offense going was squelched by fumbles. The Lions recovered three fumbles. For the Hustlin' Tigers, that's nine fumbles lost in their last two games.
Wilkey completed 10 of 18 passes with two interceptions for 209 yards. Chris Tucker was on the receiving end of five for 76 yards, while Robinson caught three for 61 yards. Akridge carried 22 times for 94 yards and the two TDs.
Slaughter said it's fun to have something to play for this time of the year.
"Any win's a good win, but when it comes at this time of year, it's special," he said. "We've got something to play for now. We've got to go in and get ready for a big game next week. Focus should not be a problem."
As has been the case for most of Howard's opponents, the Lions had their hands full with 6-foot-8, 285-pound defensive disrupter Brandon Walters. Walters had four solo tackles, five assists, one sack and a batted ball.
Walton added to his outstanding offensive night, with an interception, a fumble recovery and three tackles.
For Red Bank, linebacker Jake Parker was in on nine stops with four solo tackles and recovered two fumbles.
Howard hosts Tyner next week.