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Prep Focus: Hard-running Hofer

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Howard's Michael Hofer carries the ball during the Tigers game against Hanson earlier this season. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)2 / 2

HOWARD—Pick your poison with Michael Hofer.

The Howard junior running back uses his 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame to run over defenders, but is also shifty enough in the open field to run around tacklers.

"He loves to run the football," Howard coach Pat Ruml said. "But when he gets it in space, he will either run around you or over you, but he chooses to run over you because of his body size. I think his tough style of running is what really sets him apart from some of the others."

It's led to Hofer being the go-to back for Howard, which prides itself on running the football and this season again has a strong collection of ball carriers. This season, senior Ethan Cramer and juniors Gavin Ericksen-Reisdorfer and Zach Pardy also carry the load in the backfield.

"It is especially valuable, because we run the football so much," Ruml said about the number of running backs. "We are predicated around the run here. They all do different things, but Michael can move from either wingback, fullback and vice-versa. He is very versatile."

He's also durable. In Howard's lone loss this season against Irene-Wakonda, Hofer was called upon late in the game and he responded. He finished with 22 carries for 118 yards and three touchdowns.

"He wanted the ball late in the game and we gave it to him," Ruml said. "You could see the will to win at the end of the game. Even though we did lose it, we had a big, long drive at the end of the game to tie it up and then get the two-point conversion and we did it all behind him."

And Hofer does it behind a strong offensive line that starts junior Trevor Petrik, senior Aidyn Feldhaus, senior Evan Kizer, junior E.J. Leetch and sophomore Isaac Feldhaus.

"They are the reason we are really good at running the ball this year," said Hofer, who had a 223-yard and five-touchdown game against Menno/Marion. "They are the biggest factor because they are really good and they put in their time and effort. They should be able to get rewarded."

The Tigers as a whole are getting rewarded this season. After winning the Class 9A state championship in 2014, Howard suffered through two losing seasons.

But behind 13 juniors and seniors, the Tigers have turned it around this season.

"We are older," Hofer said. "We have been playing against juniors and seniors the past few years and we kind of learned it the hard way, but we worked hard in the summer."

Howard's offseason workouts and team camps have helped lead to a successful season. The Tigers are ranked No. 3 in Class 9A and sporting a 6-1 record, leading into Friday's game against Viborg-Hurley in Viborg.

"It's has been really fun," Hofer said about the season. "Because we are winning some games, and it's more fun when you win games."

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