Game of the Week: Three items to watch between De Smet and Howard
When/Where: 7 p.m. today in Howard.
Coaches: De Smet’s Dan Wilkinson and Wes Clubb; Howard’s Pat Ruml.
Last year: Howard won last year’s regular-season meeting, 38-6. The Tigers also won the playoff game, 35-0.
Records: De Smet is 5-1 and No. 4 in Class 9A. Howard is 5-0 and No. 1 in Class 9A.
Here are three items to watch for in tonight’s Mitchell Republic Game of the Week between De Smet and Howard:
Key Class 9A contest
Three weeks after a heart-pounding win over Canistota/Freeman, Howard will play another key Class 9A contest Friday.
The No. 1 Tigers (5-0) host No. 4 De Smet (5-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Howard. The clash will hold major playoff implications.
“It’s a big game for power points for us,” Howard coach Pat Ruml said. “Because with what we have left. We have ORR (Oldham-Ramona/Rutland) next week and then after that we have to play the conference champion from the other side. We have to play either Viborg-Hurley or Hanson.”
Howard and De Smet represent two of the six teams in a stacked Region 2. Howard sits No. 1 in the region with 45.800 points, while Canistota/Freeman (4-1) is right behind with 44.800 points. De Smet is in third with 42.667 points.
Canistota/Freeman edged De Smet, 14-12, earlier in the season. Howard handed the Pride their only defeat, a 16-14 triple-overtime thriller on Sept. 11.
The Howard vs. De Smet winner will grab major seed points for playoff positioning.
“We want to sit at home for at least the first two rounds and to do that you have to win this football game,” Ruml said. “I think our guys know that and they appreciate the fact we get to play a good football team.”
Keys to the game
The teams both feature stout defensive units.
Howard has recorded two shutouts, while only allowing 34 points all season. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have pitched three shutouts and have given up just 46 points.
So a low-scoring, defensive slugfest could be in the works.
“I think both defenses really kind of take care of what the other one does well,” Ruml said. “I think it’s probably going to be one of those games where four, five yards in a carry and it’s pretty hard to break one on them because they are pretty fast.”
But Ruml said the Tigers could neutralize De Smet’s speed with their size.
“They play really hard and they’ve got some really athletic kids,” Ruml said. “But I think our line probably has a little more experience than theirs. I think there’s some things we can take advantage of, but I know they are probably feeling the same way. They’ve got some fast kids that can get loose if you let them and do some damage.”
Players to watch
Along with its stingy defense, Howard is complemented by a balanced offense.
The Tigers rely on a host of backs to power the rushing attack, with Briar Feldhaus, Riley Genzlinger, Lane Miller, Kieffer Klinkhammer, Ty Beyer and John Callies receiving a bulk of the carries. Howard quarterback Tisyn Spader orchestrates the offense, while having receivers Sam Aslesen (6-7, 200) and Jaxon Kampshoff (6-1, 180) at his disposal.
“We are going to rely heavily on our running game like we normally do,” Ruml said. “But I really like this group because I can pass when I want to pass and I think our completion rate is up over 75 percent this year. So we’ve really done a nice job in our passing game this year.”
For De Smet, Kalen Garry is coming off 17 carries for 186 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-6 win over Castlewood.