The Howard Tigers (12-0) defeated the Wolsey-Wessington Warbirds (11-1) 32-20 on Thursday and the Tigers are the 2014 Class 9A Football State Champions. Both teams came into this game with zero losses, but only one could leave with perfection and the title.
The Wolsey-Wessington Warbirds fumbled the opening kick-off, and Howard took advantage two plays later with a 39-yard touchdown run by Luke Loudenburg. The Tigers then went for two to grab an early 8-0 lead. On the Tigers next position Jordan Genzlinger found Gunner Gilbertson for a 12-yard touchdown pass, making it 14-0 Howard.
The Warbirds found their groove on their third offensive drive of the game, when quarterback Lorenzo Williams broke loose on a 59-yard touchdown run. Their two-point conversion was good, but Howard still led 14-8.
Howard found rhythm on the ground for their next drive. It was capped off with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Genzlinger to Gilbertson, their second connection of the game. The two-point conversion was no good and the Tigers led the Warbirds 20-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Wolsey-Wessington scored on their first play of the second quarter as Williams ran in an 18-yard quarterback keeper. Howard still led 20-14 with 11:54 remaining in the half. Both teams traded offensive possessions for the rest of the quarter giving Howard the 20-14 lead going into the half.
Defenses remained strong throughout the third quarter as no offense managed to score. However, the Howard Tigers had a long drive to end the quarter that put them in strong position going into the final quarter.
Loudenburg ran in a 9-yard touchdown with 11:55 remaining in the game to extend Howards lead 26-14 over the Warbirds. Wolsey-Wessington answered right back with an 18-yard quarterback keeper by Williams. Two-point conversion was no good, and Howard still led 26-20.
With roughly five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Howard came up with a huge defensive stand, holding the Warbirds on a fourth down run. Wolsey-Wessington had one more opportunity with 1:47 remaining in the game, but the Tigers had other plans. Gilbertson intercepted a Williams pass, which was the first interception of the year thrown by him.
With 85 seconds remaining in the game, Louderburg ran in a 30-yard touchdown to seal the victory for the Howard Tigers. Final score has Howard victorious over Wolsey-Wessington 32-20.
Watch Full Game here
Quarterback Lorenzo Williams was the leading rusher for the Warbirds with 242 yards on 28 carries with three touchdowns. Hunter Johnson attributed 35 rushing yards for the Warbirds, on nine carries.
Howard quarterback Genzlinger threw for 27 yards on four completions, but two of those completions were touchdown passes. Gilbertson had both touchdown receptions for Howard on 21 yards receiving.
Howard running back Loudenburg rushed for 227 yards on 29 carries for three touchdowns. He was named the games MVP.
Loudenberg said others who deserve the credit for this years rushing success.
“It’s our offensive line, they do a great job, it’s all them,” Loudenburg explained.
He also raved about the teams defense.
“We knew our defense had to step up in this game, we knew we were going have to shut them down to win,” said Loudenburg
Head Coach Pat Ruml is proud with the way his team fought in this game.
“Give them credit, they play some really good defense and they bottled us up at times,” said Ruml. “I’m proud of our seniors, they knew they wanted to get back here and they worked hard to make it happen.”
“We knew our defense had to step up in this game, we knew we were going have to shut them down to win this game.“
This is the third football state championship for the Howard Tigers. Their second in 9-man, while they had one during their stint in 11-man.