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SPOTLIGHT
Game of the Week: Victoria can't hang with Cougars

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Game of the Week: Victoria can't hang with Cougars

Published on -10/7/2012, 8:05 PM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

OTIS ­-- The Otis-Bison High School football team had remained in the state rankings and won four of its first five contests, but hadn't delivered a complete game yet. The Cougars had some struggles with fundamentals, tackling, the passing game and a defense that had allowed 28.6 points per contest.

"That's what we have been talking about the last couple of weeks," eighth-year coach Travis Starr said. "We've put spurts together where we have looked really good, and then we put spurts together where we look like we are young and inexperienced and haven't played football before."

On Friday, Otis-Bison broke through with its best contest of the year in a 44-12 homecoming victory against Central Prairie League rival Victoria.

The Cougars, ranked No. 5 in Eight-Man Division II in the statewide media poll, moved to 5-1, 2-0 in District 7.

"Tonight was the most complete game we have put together by far," Starr said.

Victoria dropped to 3-3, 1-2. Otis-Bison hasn't lost a district contest since 2008 and has won three straight versus the Knights. The Cougars led 22-6 at halftime and had a 38-point advantage when Victoria scored with 50 seconds left.

"Aggressive tackling on Otis-Bison's part," Victoria coach Doug Oberle said. "I thought they came and played very well. I thought they put their hat on the football, and I thought they tackled extremely well. We didn't tackle well and they did. We didn't block well and they did. We didn't coach well and they did."

Otis-Bison was strong in all three phases, especially with its power running game and defense. The Cougars have incorporated a rarely-used one-back, no wideout set in the I-formation with senior running back Dylan Wissman, one of the state's top eight-man players.

"I like it a lot, because it creates a lot of mismatches up front for them, and it gives me an extra blocker up there," Wissman said.

Wissman now has 1,156 yards this season after he had a career-high 41 carries for 274 yards and five rushing TDs. He tallied the Cougars' other touchdown on a 30-yard fumble recovery. Wissman had all but 11 of Otis-Bison's total yards.

Wissman, with more than 4,000 total yards in his career, had his usual assortment of runs where he broke multiple tackles, showcased his speed and dragged defenders for several yards.

"He runs extremely hard," Oberle said. "He refuses to be tackled with one person. I give a lot of credit to their front. I thought their front played exceptionally well. At the end of the day, you get a big front with a guy like that back there, things will happen."

Otis-Bison had nine tackles for loss on defense. Senior Tyler Maier tallied three TFLs, a sack, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.

"We are pretty happy," Maier said. "We just came out and played better. We were pretty jacked up to play Victoria. It was homecoming and decided to come out and play good for the home fans."

Senior Sam Higgason, a returning first team all-CPL player, had dealt with knee issues and hadn't played up to Starr's standards.

Higgason and Starr talked Thursday and the senior responded with 2.5 tackles for loss (including two sacks) and a forced fumble that led to Wissman's recovery and TD. Junior Kole Urban collected three pass breakups, including an interception.

"It was just our aggression," Higgason said. "We hadn't come out to our potential in the other games. ... This was a big game, basically decides first and second in our district, so we just knew that it was an important game, and we were focused."

Offensively, Starr has always favored a two-back set with a fullback, but graduated fullback Patrick Piper. The coach usually puts one of his best athletes at fullback. This fall, Otis-Bison doesn't have a great fullback.

"We've got tight ends that can block, we've got offensive linemen, we have got one running back," Starr said. "So I figured let's put the one running back back there and we can motion him a little bit. Put our best eight guys out there on the field."

Wissman now has 176 carries this year and, on many drives, carried the ball every play.

He scored on a 30-yard run with 9:37 left in the first half for a 6-0 lead. Otis-Biso bumped the lead to 14-0 when Higgason broke through for the sack and forced the fumble.

"I just fought over the center's block and I read the quarterback coming up in the hole and just I just went up to make the tackle," Wissman said.

After the Knights tallied a 1-yard run from freshman Eric McAlonan, Wissman, led by his six blockers, scored on plays of 6, 13, 7 and 1 yards.

"It was just an all-around team victory," Starr said.

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