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

Coaches: Canistota/Freeman’s James Strang; Hanson’s Jim Haskamp.

Last meeting: The teams last played in 2018, with Canistota/Freeman claiming a 44-8 decision.

Records: Canistota/Freeman is 6-1 and No. 2 in the latest Class 9A poll. Hanson is 6-1 and No. 5 in the latest Class 9AA poll.

Here are three items to watch for in tonight’s Mitchell Republic Game of the Week between Canistota/Freeman and Hanson:

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Cornbelt Conference clash

Today’s Class 9AA No. 1 Viborg-Hurley vs. Class 9A No. 1 Howard matchup was canceled due to COVID-19. The Cougars and Tigers will split the Cornbelt Conference title for the season.

So Hanson against Canistota/Freeman will be the marquee matchup in the Cornbelt Conference, which uses a cross-division format in the final week of the regular season.

“We are kind of the marquee matchup in the Cornbelt and so we want to go out and win that game,” Canistota/Freeman coach James Strang said. “We always look at where our stance is in the Cornbelt, normally dictates how well we are going to be throughout the course of the season. We just want to finish out the regular season on a high note and get this win and prep for the playoffs.”

The Beavers (6-1) and Pride (6-1) are both looking for strong finishes before they prep for the postseason. But this will be the lone meeting between the conference foes this season.

Canistota/Freeman is Class 9A, while Hanson is Class 9AA. So today’s matchup will serve as a measuring stick before the playoffs and a good chance to grab major seed points in the final week.

“It’s a big game as far as when you are looking at overall power points within 9AA, within region and overall when you are looking at 9AA,” Hanson coach Jim Haskamp said. “You want to be one of those top seeds.”

Keys to the game

The teams have multiple skill players, but it all starts up front.

Haskamp said the line of scrimmage will be the biggest factor in the outcome.

“You can’t overstate the effectiveness of the interior line and are we going to be able to move the football,” Haskamp said. “That’s going to be a big question mark. … A lot of times the games are won or lost right in the interior line. So it’s going to depend on how well we do up front.”

Strang echoed his coaching counterpart’s sentiments, while adding the Pride will strive to be efficient on early downs and emphasize limiting mistakes.

“That’s something we’ve talked about through the course of the year is a little bit overpentalized and it’s caused some problems in key situations for us,” Strang said. “We want to make sure we limit those and make sure we can control the things we can control.”

Players to watch

Quarterback Tyce Ortman powers the offensive attack, throwing for 438 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 587 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The Pride also rely heavily on their four senior offensive linemen -- Clayton Smith, Cole Papendick, Logan Heinzmann and Logan Katzer -- to help control the line of scrimmage. Junior Riley Heiberger has also added depth to the lines.

“I think their level of play has really showed up throughout the course of the year and been a major strength of ours,” Strang said.

Haskamp also praised the progression of Hanson’s interior line during the season. Senior lineman Thailan Hallman anchors the lines for Hanson, while it has a bevy of backs that carry the load in the backfield. Running backs Hadley Wallace and Jackson Jarding pace the rushing attack, while quarterback Kade Waldera engineers the balanced offense.

“We’ve had multiple running backs,” Haskamp said. “We haven’t depended on just one or two guys.”