St. Thomas More quarterback Walker Howard's newest skill: Molding young receivers

LaMar Gafford
Alexandria Town Talk

St. Thomas More senior quarterback Walker Howard already has one state championship to his name with an established group of receivers.

However, his goal is to get another with entirely a new group.

“Our guys are getting better week in and week out,” Howard said. “That’s what we need to do – get better towards the end of the season and take one game at a time.”

Last season, the Cougars had an impressive group of receivers led by Jack Bech, who caught 70 passes for 1,362 yards and 16 touchdowns before heading to LSU.

So far, Howard’s go-to guys this season have been sophomore Hutch Swilley and senior Jack Elliot Hines, as he has connected with each for two touchdowns.

Senior Jackson Guerin and junior Hayes Moncla also have caught touchdown passes after making strides since the offseason.

St. Thomas More quarterback Walker Howard (15) looks to throw as he's pressured by ASH's Gary Matthews (46, right) in a game held Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 at Butch Stoker Memorial Stadium.

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“I think they’ve really stepped up in the last week or two,” St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower said. “When we started back in June, it looked like we were going to have trouble completing any passes. I thought our receivers made some tough catches tonight and we’re building. This is a young football team.”

Despite the growing pains, the experience has helped Howard, a five-star quarterback prospect, become a better leader.

STM's Jack Hines runs the ball down the field as the St. Thomas More Cougars take on the Plaquemine High Green Devils on Oct. 2, 2020.

In a 62-35 loss to Alexandria Senior High on Friday, Howard passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns, and Hines caught eight passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s a resilient leader,” said St. Thomas More offensive coordinator Shane Savoie. “This year has been a lot of fun because the dynamic, strong personalities of our senior class last year, we had a lot of receivers that took that main leadership role and it allowed Walker to develop and be in the background as a leader. This year, he’s really had to step up. It’s been a growing factor to find what type of leadership style works for him.”

Time will tell whether this year’s receivers will be as good as their predecessors, but they already have earned some respect from opposing coaches.

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“That quarterback is unbelievable,” Bachman said. “He can put the ball in some spots and the receivers made some great plays. They didn’t get frustrated, they lined up and they just kept competing.”

St. Thomas More quarterback Walker Howard (15) looks to throw against ASH in a game held Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 at Butch Stoker Memorial Stadium.  Jack Stefanski (10) is to the right..

And their competitive spirit has helped them earn confidence from their coaches and Howard.

“This group is getting there,” Hightower said. “They’re still learning, but they’re going to get there, I’m very confident.”