Howard blanks Hanson to cap undefeated regular season
Tigers claim Cornbelt Conference title over previously unbeaten Beavers
ALEXANDRIA — In a battle of nine-man football unbeatens to decide the Cornbelt Conference champion, Howard left no doubt.
Class 9A’s second-ranked Tigers controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, outrushing Class 9AA No. 1 Hanson by more than 100 yards on the way to a 26-0 statement victory on the road Friday night.
Both teams struggled to find offensive success early, as Hanson (7-1) had 33 total yards and Howard (8-0) had 16 after the first quarter. With 8:43 remaining in the second, momentum swung toward Howard, as quarterback Taiden Hoyer connected with tight end Jace Sifore — the first completed pass by either team to that point — for a 36-yard touchdown.
“We have a really athletic quarterback running the bootleg, so it’s a run-pass option,” Howard coach Pat Ruml said. “When he runs it he has the option to keep it and go, but he saw Jace and we have that as a back-up. With that, it’s really hard to stop. We’ve been working on it, but we haven’t run it much all year if at all. I’ve been waiting to put it in this game or the playoffs so nobody would see it, but now it’s out there.”
After Jackson Jarding intercepted a Hoyer pass intended for Sifore on the Tigers’ next possession, Hanson marched its way down to the 11-yard line, picking up three first downs on the way and threatened to level the ballgame. After two unsuccessful attempts and a pass that was tipped by Sifore as it left quarterback Kade Waldera’s hand on third down, Hanson had a decision to make. On fourth-and-8, the Beavers threw an interception, swinging the momentum back towards the Tigers just before halftime.
“Us not being able to score in the red-zone when we had a chance in the second quarter was big,” Hanson coach Jim Haskamp said. “Not being able to score there and that turnover where they went up two scores on us right away … After that, we struggled and some of the stuff that we wanted to do, we couldn’t.”
Hanson fumbled on its first possession of the second half, leading to a Karsyn Feldhaus 15-yard touchdown run, extending Howard’s lead to 13-0. John Callies scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown, followed by another Feldhaus score to seal the game.
The Tigers defense held Hanson to 140 of total offense and recovered two forced fumbles.
“Overall, I thought we did a great job of making them do some things they didn’t want to do,” Ruml said. “They don’t like to pass it that often and we made them throw a lot more and that’s a credit to our guys up front and our linebackers.”
Howard ended the game with 290 yards of total offense, 200 on the ground.
Both programs are in position to host a first-round playoff game on Thursday, Oct. 21, with pairings to be announced.