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Howard carries on strong football legacy with fourth state title since 2004

Howard defeated HSA, 55-18, in Thursday's Class 9A championship game.

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Howard defeated Herried/Selby Area 55-18 for the Class 9A State Championship on Thursday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

VERMILLION — The Howard Tigers football tradition is a proud one.

Since making the school’s first state championship appearance in Class 11B in 2004, a 29-8 win over St. Thomas More, the Tigers have five more trips to the DakotaDome and won three additional state titles.

No previous effort, though, was more dominant than Thursday afternoon’s display. Howard cruised to a 55-18 championship victory in Class 9A over previously undefeated Herreid/Selby Area, scoring the fifth-most points by the winning team in the 40-year history of Class 9A championships.

There was a statement to be made, senior running back John Callies, said. Consider it heard, loud and clear.

"I think people overlooked us earlier in the year because we lost so many guys," Callies said. "We wanted to make a statement and show that we could be best and that we could hang and we did that."

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In all, Howard replaced nearly its entire starting offense and two-thirds of the defensive starters from last year's state semifinalist team. The Tigers were never off the Class 9A radar — they were No. 3 in the preseason South Dakota Prep Media poll and were ranked No. 2 throughout the regular season — but coach Pat Ruml allowed the external doubts provide motivation for a young and hungry team.

No. 2 Howard and No. 1 Herreid/Selby Area entered the Class 9A title tilt at 11-0 and 12-0, respectively, and had just knocked out the other two previously undefeated programs — Wall and De Smet — in the state semifinals. Considering how difficult Howard's schedule was, winning seven games against teams with a record of .500 or better and playing a difficult Cornbelt Conference slate, winning it all was sweet, senior Jace Sifore said.

"We had one goal and that was to win a championship," Sifore said.

Senior Ty Beyer set the tone early with a 65-yard rushing touchdown on the second play from scrimmage, as the Tigers pummeled the Wolverines to the tune of 409 rushing yards on 36 attempts — nearly 11.4 yards per carry. On top of Beyer’s early score, Howard had touchdown runs of 1, 11, 24, 28, 35 and 54 yards, and scored a 58-yard touchdown on its lone pass completion of the afternoon.

On defense, Howard held the top scoring offense in Class 9A (49.7 points per game before Thursday) to six first-half points as it rolled ahead to a 42-6 lead.

The Tigers graduate five seniors, including Callies, Beyer and Sifore, along with tight end Cole Mentele and Brayden Hinker, with seven juniors expected to carry the Howard leadership flag next season.

Beyer said the gold trophy at the end is a product of a long offseason of football camps, lifting sessions and extra workouts during the summer. He said he can't wait for the championship banner to go up in the Howard High School gym.

"That ability to put up another banner up on the wall in the high school and everyone's going to look at that forever, it's a great feeling," Beyer said. "We love being able to bring that back to Howard."

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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