Tigers ready to erase disappointment of championship game
By LARRY LEEDS, Sports Editor
The Howard Tigers were so close to capturing another football title last season, but the Deubrook Dolphins edged the Tigers 25-22 for the Class 9AA championship.|
"They have that bitter taste of the championship game still with them," said Coach Pat Ruml.
Howard will move down to Class 9A this season, but although the Tigers are coming down a class, it will not make it any easier. They will need to be ready each and every game.
"We will be playing schools similar in size now," Ruml said.
The Tigers finished last season with a 9-3 overall record and now have 24 players out for the team. There are seven seniors, 13 juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen.
Key players returning to the gridiron for the Tigers are seniors Nick Pardy, Jordan Kuhle and Isaiah Glanzer and juniors Luke Loudenburg, Bailey Neises and Kaleb Haas.
Loudenburg racked up 1,785 yards on 196 carries and set the single-season rushing record for the Tigers. He is on track to break the career rushing record of Doug Carlson, 3,731 yards (2000-04).
According to sixth-year coach Ruml, the guys have hit the weight room hard in anticipation of the upcoming season.
"They have put in a lot of work in the weight room. There have been 18 players lifting on a regular basis since March," he said.
Howard was hit hard by graduation, losing 13 seniors last season, including key players Evan Donahue, Cole Potter, Landon Laible, Hunter Eggert, Steve Larson, Andrew Schwader, Cal Wiese and Ben Walter.
"These kids now know it is their time and they have waited for this moment," Ruml said.
Besides putting the time in the weight room, the Tigers went to three team camps. According to Ruml, each camp showed progress.
"Quickness and a winning tradition are the strengths of the Tigers," said Ruml.
Ruml's main concern is the depth of the team.
"We had more depth a year ago," he said. "We want to win the conference games and protect the home-field advantage for the playoffs."
Howard is in both the Big East and Cornbelt conferences. The Tigers play a full slate of Cornbelt Conference games.
Ruml believes protecting the home field means that the Tigers need to get a good start to the season.
He believes the Tigers will be battling for the top spot in the Cornbelt Conference with Hanson and Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan.
The Tigers will open the season at Chester on Sept. 6.
"We get an extra week of practice and that will help us," Ruml said.
Assisting Ruml this season are Troy Loudenburg, Justin Palmquist and Chad Podhradsky.