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Game of the Week: Three items to watch between Howard and Hanson

When/Where: 7 p.m. today in Alexandria.

Coaches: Howard's Pat Ruml; Hanson's Jim Haskamp.

Forecast: The temperature at kickoff will be 71 degrees and southeast winds at 8 mph.

Records: Howard is 1-2; Hanson is 0-3.

Here are three items to watch for in tonight's Daily Republic Game of the Week between Howard and Hanson:

Turning the corner

Despite a combined 1-5 record, Howard and Hanson have shown glimpses of improvement the past two weeks.

The Tigers started the season ranked No. 2 in Class 9A, but started the season with two defeats against formidable foes Garretson (30-16) and Canistota/Freeman (36-12).

On Aug. 24, the Tigers trailed Canistota/Freeman 36-0 at halftime. However, they outscored the Pride 12-0 in the second half and it carried over into last week's 22-12 win over Parker.

"For us, it's just been about getting better every week," Howard coach Pat Ruml said. "We played pretty good last week against Parker and I expect us to play good again this weekend and just get slowly and steadily better each week."

The Beavers, who have been hit with injuries, started the season with a 36-0 defeat against Baltic. They have since scored 34 points in two defeats against Irene-Wakonda (57-12) and Viborg-Hurley (52-22).

"Overall, I am happy with the progress that we've had," Hanson coach Jim Haskamp said. "I am happy with the effort of the kids. We've done some good things. We just have to continue to work to get better."

Players to watch

Last week against Parker, Ruml simplified some blocking assignments and that paved the way to 293 total yards, including 217 rushing yards. Gavin Ericksen-Reisdorfer rushed for 92 yards on 13 carries, while Michael Hofer rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries. Ericksen-Reisdorfer also scored two touchdowns. Zach Pardy gives the Tigers a three-headed rushing attack.

Ruml said running the ball is the identity of the team, but hopes to keep teams honest with the passing attack. Last week, Isaac Feldhaus passed for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think a lot of people say 'They never throw it,' " Ruml said. "But you've got to complete some passes otherwise the defense is all in the box. For us, I think that's helping us complete some passes to the outside and over the top."

Due to injuries, the Beavers have shuffled around their personnel. Last week, Brandon Mentele (87 rushing yards), Gavin Doyle (61 rushing yards) and Simon Weber (49 rushing yards) paced a 245-yard rushing day for the Beavers against Viborg-Hurley.

Mentele has been a Swiss Army knife player for Hanson.

"Brandon Mentele has also been effective for us," Haskamp said. "The first game of the year he was playing center and then now we moved him back to fullback, which is where he's started the last couple of years and defensively we've kind of moved him around a little bit, too. He's been solid for us."

Keys

It's homecoming week at Hanson and the Beavers are hungry for a win, which isn't lost on Ruml. He's studied Hanson on film and sees a team improving each week.

"Hanson always plays hard and they are tough to play against us because the offense that they run," Ruml said. "It's hard to defend at times. So you have to play them a little differently and then we always know when we play Hanson, it's always a tough game. I know coach Haskamp is a great coach and he will have them ready to play."

Ruml added the play at the line of scrimmage will be important. The Tigers graduated a pair of all-state guards last season and the development within the line has been a process.

"We have to be ready to play up front," Ruml said. "Our linemen, we have some young ones in there. If they continue to improve, I think we will be OK."

On the other side, Haskamp said controlling the clock will be key against the run-heavy Tigers.

"We need to be able to move the ball offensively," Haskamp said. "We need to take the time of possession and we need to cutdown on mistakes."

Defensively, eliminating the big plays will also be a point of emphasis. Last week, Hanson gave up 38 third-quarter points against Viborg-Hurley.

"We are going to have to try to do some different things up front defensively," Haskamp said. "We are just going to have to make sure we tackle well and wrap up and get our assignments."

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