Howard runs past Clark/Willow Lake 50-0 in 9AA semifinalCLARK — Howard High School’s football team probably doesn’t need to take the bus to the DakotaDome in Vermillion for the state Class 9AA championship on Thursday. The Tigers should just run.
By: By ROGER MERRIAM , Watertown Public Opinion
CLARK — Howard High School’s football team probably doesn’t need to take the bus to the DakotaDome in Vermillion for the state Class 9AA championship on Thursday. The Tigers should just run.
The eighth-seeded Tigers got plenty of practice in that department Saturday night, rushing for 506 yards on the way to a 50-0 semifinal victory over fourth-seeded Clark-Willow Lake in a game that ended midway through the fourth quarter on the mercy rule.
Howard (9-2) led only 8-0 before scoring three touchdowns in the final four minutes and 23 seconds of the first half. The Tigers ran over, around and past a Cyclones’ squad that had won nine consecutive games since opening the season with a loss to Hamlin.
“I was a little concerned about a letdown, but as the days went on I saw the kids were ready,” said Howard head coach Pat Ruml . “Our last two practices, the kids were so focused.”
Just like a bus, it took Howard’s running game a little time to warm up. Senior quarterback Landon Laible’s 1-yard TD plunge opening the game’s scoring with 31 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers hit the throttle behind Luke Loudenburg, a 5-foot-10, 135-pound sparkplug. Loudenburg helped the Tigers start to pull away with a 5-yard TD scamper with 4:31 left in the half. Less than two minutes later, he dashed 54 yards for another score.
Laible’s second 1-yard TD plunge, on the final play of the first half, gave the Tigers a 28-0 halftime lead — certainly erasing any idea that a letdown was coming after Howard knocked off top-rated and top-seeded Kimball/White Lake in the quarterfinals on Monday.
It didn’t matter that Howard was playing without senior Cole Potter, perhaps the team’s best running back and linebacker. Potter tweaked his knee early against Kimball-White Lake and didn’t see the field against the Cyclones.
No biggie. The Tigers’ double-wing offense rolled behind a solid offensive line and a variety of weapons. Loudenburg opened the second half with a 76-yard touchdown sprint on the opening play. Laible connected with Andrew Schwader on a 15-yard TD pass midway through the period and Cal Wiese closed the scoring and the game with a 7-yard run with 5:49 remaining.
Clark-Willow Lake (9-2) certainly wasn’t overlooking the Tigers, whose only losses this season came to Class 9A Canistota and Class 9AA Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, two schools that each won state championships the past two seasons.
Even Ruml acknowledged the Tigers weren’t really an underdog heading into the playoffs.
“Anybody who played us and anybody on this team knows we’re better than an eighth seed,” he said. “We’re averaging over 40 points a game even with the tough opponents we’ve played.”
The Cyclones didn’t have an answer either offensively or defensively.
Loudenburg was the brightest star for the Tigers, rushing 18 times for 276 yards and the three scores. Senior Evan Donahue added 96 yards on 10 carries. Laible completed four of 10 passes for 50 yards.
Howard’s defense was led by Jordan Kuhle’s seven tackles and James Jungwirth’s six. Donahue ended Clark-Willow Lake’s best scoring threat with an interception in the end zone.
The Cyclones were held to 80 yards rushing — 46 on 11 carries by senior Lane Hovde — and 42 passing. Tyson Jenkins completed 3 of 17 passes.
Ruml and the Tigers face Deubrook in the state 9AA championship at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
“There is a lot of preparation in a short amount of time because the turnaround is so quick,” said Ruml , who guided Howard to the 2009 state Class 9AA title. “We have 13 seniors and they’ve started for two years now. They catch on to things real quickly.”
H: Landon Laible 1 run (Luke Loudenburg run), 0:31.
H: Loudenburg 5 run (pass failed), 4:23.
H: Loudenburg 54 run (run failed), 1:47.
H: Laible 1 run (James Jungwirth pass from Laible ), 0:00.
H: Loudenburg 76 run (pass failed), 11:47.
H: Andrew Schwader 15 pass from Laible (Jordan Kuhle run), 6:44.
H: Cal Wiese 7 run (Evan Donahue run), 5:49.
Note: Game ended with 5:49 remaining because of mercy rule.