WiLdKats, Tigers square off in 9AA quarterfinalKIMBALL — For Howard’s Pat Ruml and Kimball/White Lake’s Dale Taylor, the best quarterfinal matchup across the state tonight is going to be held in Kimball.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
KIMBALL — For Howard’s Pat Ruml and Kimball/White Lake’s Dale Taylor, the best quarterfinal matchup across the state tonight is going to be held in Kimball.
“On paper, it sure matches up that way,” said Ruml, the Tigers’ fifth-year head coach. “It has all the makings of a great game.”
At 7 p.m. today, Kimball/White Lake (9-0) hosts Howard (7-2) in a 9AA quarterfinal high school football quarterfinal playoff game. The winner earns a berth to Saturday’s state semifinals, while the loser’s season is finished.
The unbeaten WiLdKats haven’t tasted defeat in nearly a year when they fell to Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan in the 9AA state title game last season. Now gunning for their 10th straight win, the WiLdKats — who are in their second year as a cooperative — are the top seed in the 9AA playoffs and are looking to make a second straight trip to the DakotaDome for another state championship chance.
“We know Howard is a very tough football team,” Taylor said. “This isn’t a very easy game for a No. one seed to play the eighth seed and have to beat Howard. … They have a lot of weapons, a good line of scrimmage and have pretty much the total package.
“This is a huge game. If we lose, the quest for a state championship is over.”
With one exception, Kimball/White Lake has cruised in all of its games this season. On Oct. 5, the WiLdKats picked up a 26-22 win over Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, the same team that Kimball/White Lake lost to in the 9AA championship last year.
In the first round of the playoffs last week, BEE lost to Gregory, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy path through the playoffs, Taylor said.
“That win gave our kids confidence knowing that we could beat a special team such as Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan,” said Taylor, whose team is averaging 42.4 points per game. “But there are definitely some very good football teams still alive right now.”
Howard’s two losses are both by four points or less and are to defending state champions. The Tigers, averaging 44 points per game, lost to Canistota 20-16 to open the season and fell to BEE 28-26 on Sept. 28.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence definitely, and I think the schedule we had prepares us well for the playoffs,” Ruml said. “Talking to our guys, they’re pretty confident and our practices have gone well the last couple of days.”
Howard is bringing a three-headed rushing attack to today’s game. Evan Donahue, Cole Potter and Luke Loudenburg all have had a major hand in the Tigers’ ground game this season.
Donahue has 74 rushes for 667 yards; Potter has 63 carries for 934 yards; and Loudenburg has 113 rushes for 924 yards. Quarterback Landon Laible is 40-of-59 passing for 496 yards on the season.
“On our end, we think this will be a close game,” Ruml said. “I told our kids it could come down to an extra point, a two-point conversion or a fourth-and-goal.”
Kimball/White Lake also has three running backs that are capable of scoring at any time and a quarterback that’s piled up the yardage.
Through the regular season, Jacob Kirsch had 144 carries for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns and Trevor Reinesch racked up 1,002 yards and 17 touchdowns on 119 carries. Kyle Peters had 38 carries for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Jesse Taylor completed 51 of 91 passes for 770 yards and 11 touchdowns. Taylor also had 28 carries for 173 yards and six rushing touchdowns during the regular season.