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Howard football ramps up new season with state title expectations in Class 9AA

After rolling to a 12-0 record and a 55-18 win in the state title game in the DakotaDome last year, Howard is making the jump to 9AA for the 2022 season and still has the state title in its sights.

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Howard's Griffin Clubb closes in on making a tackle during the 2021 Class 9A state championship game on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell Republic file photo
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HOWARD, S.D. — The reigning Class 9A champions will have a different path in 2022 should they want to win the state crown again.

After rolling to a 12-0 record and a 55-18 win in the state title game in the DakotaDome last year, Howard is making the jump to Class 9AA for the 2022 season. Fortunately for the Tigers, they return a good chunk of starters from last year’s state-champion team.

Starting quarterback Taiden Hoyer is back for his second season under center, as well as the entire starting offensive line and six starters on the defensive side of the ball. That continuity has been a big boost early on for the Tigers.

“It's made it a lot easier in fall camp for us,” said head coach Pat Ruml. “We didn't have to spend a ton of extra time with plays and things, the guys were pretty dialed in right away.”

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Howard's Taiden Hoyer carries the ball in a nine-man football game against Hanson on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Alexandria.
Mitchell Republic file photo

Despite returning a lot of key pieces from last year’s team, the Tigers did lose three all-state players to graduation in Ty Beyer, John Callies and Jace Sifore. Ruml said the physicality of Beyer will be sorely missed on the defense, but all three of those guys missed some time last year due to injuries, which gave the then-backups a chance.

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Players like Karsyn Feldhaus and Luke Koepsell will likely step into bigger roles this season for the Tigers, but Ruml isn’t worried the new starters won’t rise to the occasion.

“They’re really good,” Ruml said of the backups from last year. “Now this year being starters, they’ve kind of just stepped right in.”

Ruml also noted Griffin Clubb, who was new to the team last year after coming over from De Smet. Despite starting all year, he was still learning the system but settled in by the end of the year and could’ve even been named the MVP in the championship game, Ruml said.

As the season draws nearer, Howard is preparing for a schedule that will likely be more difficult due to moving up in class. Ruml said the teams his squad will play this year will likely have more depth, which will be the key difference between Howard and its opponents. However, despite the move from 9A to 9AA, Ruml is confident his team has the talent to make it back to Vermillion at the end of the year.

Get ready for high school football
The Kernels have dropped four straight games after a 1-1 start, but host the Arrows, the team against which a late-season spurt began one year ago.

“Our kids, going into the year, believe that they have enough talent to be right in the mix in the end when it comes to November,” he said.

The Tigers will be put to the test right away, though. They take on Hanson at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19 in Howard for their first game of the season.

Area games and all four Kernel road games will be broadcast at the Mitchell Republic's website

While he wishes the first opponent wasn’t one of the toughest ones on the schedule, Ruml said his team will use that game as a chance to see where they’re at and make any adjustments accordingly.

Despite the move from 9A to 9AA, the goals are the same for Howard as they are every year — make it to Vermillion and walk away with the state championship trophy. No matter what the path to get there looks like, Ruml knows what the expectations are.

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“Expectations usually don't change here in Howard,” Ruml said. “It’s the same goal, it seems like every year — it’s the state title.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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