Tigers face good challenge in playoff opener

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers face a stiff test in their football state playoff opener when they entertain the Valders Vikings Friday at 7 p.m. in Division 5 action.

The Tigers, riding a fourgame winning streak, are seeded No. 3 with an 8-1 record. HG earned second in the Big East Conference with a 7-1 record. Valders, a No. 6 seed at 6-3, finished in a three-way tie for third in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference with a 4-3 mark.

“Our two teams will match up very closely. I see a lot of similarities between the two of us,” said Tiger head coach David Schmid.

“I think they are very wellcoached and appear to play hard on every play that we have on tape. While they are not a school from our conference, I feel they would fit well with the teams in our conference.

“I am excited to play them as they will be tough test for us in the playoffs,” said Schmid.

Valders’ ground attack is led by halfback Michael Gesese- Elsenpeter with 1,116 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Viking quarterback Kyle Tuma has thrown for 1,178 yards and six TDs. Tuma is the team’s second-leading rusher with 249 yards. Wide receiver Brock Deering has a team-best 25 receptions and 473 receiving yards (18.9 average per catch).

“They have some great size. Conner Faucett is 6-feet-5, 250 pounds – that is bigger than anyone we have on our team,” said Schmid.

“Overall, they have a number of players that are over 6-feet tall and have some some good size on the offensive and defensive lines. Their defense is impressive because they appear to blitz quite a bit. We will have to be on our toes to be able to pick that up.

“On offense they run a wing- I with a lot of iso [isolation] and option – both midline and veer,” Schmid observed.

“Gesese-Elsenpeter is a quick running back. We will have to contain him, if not, we will not catch him. Kyle Tuma is their quarterback at 6-4, 200. He is strong and we will have to gang tackle to bring him down.”

Schmid pointed out the keys for his team to earn a win.

“We will have to play a clean game, limit the number of penalties we commit and not turn the ball over,” he said.

“We will have to be able to pick up thier blitzes and not panic if they get us a couple of times. Defensively, we will have to gang tackle and hopefully take the ball away a couple of times.”

Senior running back Jack Peterson fuels the Tigers’ rushing attack with 1,134 yards (6.4 average per carry) and 14 TDs.

Tiger senior quarterback Isaac Dirker has passed for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Mason Valenstein and senior tight end Eric Reinemann are tied for the team lead in receptions with 18 each, followed by junior running back Gavin Winter’s 17.

Valenstein has a team-high 389 receiving yards (21.6 average per catch) and is tied with Reinemann for the most TD receptions with five each.

“We have continued to improve each week. I would say we are better than we were a couple of weeks ago,” said the coach.

“I also know that we have a lot of room to grow and hope we play well enough in the playoffs to continue to win and realize our potential.”

The Tigers are pretty healthy going into the game.

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