Game of the Week: Tigers win triple-overtime thriller over Pride

Howard's Lane Miller (20) carries the ball against Canistota/Freeman defenders Isiah Robertson (22) and Jacob Swensen (13) on Friday in Canistota. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

CANISTOTA -- Howard dug deep into its bag of tricks to cap off a thriller.

The Class 9A No. 2 Tigers topped Class 9A No. 1 Canistota/Freeman, 16-14, in triple overtime in the Mitchell Republic Game of the Week on Friday. The battle between the top-two teams in Class 9A lived up to the hype, with both heavyweights trading blows all night.

“It was everything the fans wanted,” Howard coach Pat Ruml said. “It was probably the best game I have been in that didn’t have a lot of scoring.”

After the teams went scoreless for two quarters and two overtimes, the third overtime lifted Howard (3-0) to the victory. Canistota/Freeman’s Tyce Ortman punched in a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down for a 14-8 advantage. The Pride (3-1) missed the ensuing two-point conversion, leaving the door open for the Tigers.

On its possession, Howard’s Riley Genzlinger scampered in for a five-yard touchdown run and a 14-14 tie. Instead of going for the two-point conversion, Howard lined up for a PAT kick attempt. But holder and starting quarterback Tisyn Spader took the snap and spotted Sam Aslesen all alone in the end zone.


“We knew they were going to try to block that hard,” Spader said. “So we have been working on that fake for five years and it’s the first time we’ve been able to use it in a game.”

The 6-foot-7 Aslesen, who was defended well all night, then caught his easy catch of the night for two points and the victory.

“I saw Sam was open and I knew I just had to get it into the end zone and he had it,” Spader continued.

The Tigers attempted a PAT kick in the first overtime, but it went wide left. Ruml felt Canistota/Freeman would defend it the same way and knew the fake would be there.

“We knew how they were going to be lining up and it was going to be open,” Ruml said. “We have three different fakes to run and we just choose that one. That looked the best.”

It capped off an instant classic between the two-evenly matched Cornbelt Conference powers that will again be in the Class 9A hunt.

“I am sure we will meet again down the road,” Ruml said. “If we do it will probably be the same type of game and a hard-nosed conference game.”

Canistota/Freeman won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. The Pride ran the ball nine times on its 13-play opening drive. It was punctuated on an Ortman-to-Tye Merrill 20-yard touchdown reception on fourth down. Merrill corralled the ball after it was bounced in the air by a Howard defender.


The acrobatic catch and ensuing two-point conversion capped off a six-minute and 44-second drive. Canistota/Freeman’s defense forced a Howard punt on its opening drive. The Pride, however, failed to tack on more points and the teams traded possessions in a fast-moving first half.

Howard got some offensive momentum going before halftime. Spader connected with Aslesen for a 36-yard reception and into Canistota/Freeman’s territory. The Tigers capped off a 10-play drive with Genzlinger’s 1-yard touchdown run. The Spader-to-Aslesen two-point conversion knotted the score at 8-8 with 1:44 before halftime.

Howard missed out on a chance to score points late in the third quarter. Spader’s red-zone pass was intercepted by Canistota/Freeman’s Isiah Robertson with 46 ticks left in the quarter.

The game remained scoreless in the final quarter and first two overtimes as defenses kept the offenses out of the end zone.

“It was a whirlwind of emotions,” Spader said. “We got down in that first quarter but we knew we could fight. We knew we had to work hard. We knew it was ground and pound.”

Canistota/Freeman finished with 255 total yards, while Howard had 209 total yards. Spader finished with 111 passing yards and Genzlinger rushed for 49 yards. Aslesen had 55 receiving yards. John Callies recorded 11 total tackles.

Ortman finished with 76 passing yards and 82 rushing yards. Robertson had 8.5 tackles and an interception.

Canistota/Freeman plays Irene-Wakonda on Sept. 18 in Irene. Howard plays at Chester Area on Sept. 18.


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