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Game of the Week: Knights looking for big game

Published on -9/13/2012, 1:43 PM

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VICTORIA -- Doug Oberle is in his 10th season with Victoria football, including his seventh as head coach. Oberle has a 57-15 career record with the Knights. When Victoria does lose, it's often by a close margin to an elite team. Entering this season, the 14 teams that defeated the Knights finished with an average of 9.6 wins. Every squad reached the postseason and three played for a state title.

Last Friday, Oberle suffered possibly the most frustrating defeat in his coaching tenure in a 40-28 home loss to St. John.

The game wasn't as close as the final score. Victoria tallied 14 points in the final 3 minutes, 23 seconds. Plus, the Knights had trouble with defensive assignments, played without senior running back/linebacker Dalton Dreiling because of a knee injury and had little enthusiasm.

While St. John is a quality team, it's possibly the worst team Victoria has lost to under Oberle. St. John is 15-14 since the start of the 2009 season, including 1-1 this fall.

"It's a combination of a lot of things, and obviously, it's got to start with the coaching," Oberle said. "We weren't ready to play."

Junior quarterback Sam Ottley said the Knights didn't get distracted by the Homecoming festivities of last week. Instead, it was just playing "flat."

"We definitely didn't overlook them," Ottley said. "We knew St. John was good. We watched them on film."

This week, Victoria (1-1) will travel to Ness City, ranked No. 1 in Eight-Man Division I in the statewide media poll at 2-0. Victoria is 1-1 against the Eagles in the last two years, including a 22-6 road defeat last fall.

"I remember going to every Knights' game with (my friends) and the big games, and now it's us doing it," Ottley said.

Last Friday, Victoria struggled on both sides of the ball, but especially defensively. In 2011, the Knights finished 6-5 and allowed more than 40 points one time, in a 46-0 loss to Thunder Ridge, the eventual Eight-Man Division II champions.

"I think we knew we could have been in the game and could have won the game if we had done everything right," sophomore safety Bryan Dome said.

The Knights permitted 347 total yards, including 223 on the ground. Last year, only Thunder Ridge and Macksville, which finished 10-1, tallied more yards versus Victoria.

"I think we could have had more heart and more effort, I think," said Dome, who led the Knights with 21 tackles. "We weren't quite ready. I don't think we were ready before the game, like we didn't come out ready. Just kind of get each other going, we didn't do much of that."

St. John scored on two pass plays of at least 22 yards in the first half, including a 33-yard score on the final play before intermission. The Tigers led 18-8 at the break.

"Defensively, when you don't do the things that you are taught to do, bad things happen and I didn't think we had a great week of practice," Oberle said. "Obviously as a coach, again, that's my fault, and I'll try to clear those problems up."

Victoria is a young team that had to replace its entire offensive and defensive lines. The Knights become even younger without Dreiling, entering his third year as a starter.

The 5-foot-8, 140-pound Dome has replaced all-state safety Corey Dinkel and played well against the run. Dome has 34 tackles and an interception in two contests. Ottley, a starting corner, said Dome sometimes even beats him to the ball.

"People have just always told me that dynamite always comes in small packages," Dome said. "When I was little, playing Husker football, I was pretty little back then, too."

Oberle complimented Dome's aggressive style, but said the sophomore still needs work in pass coverage. Victoria has allowed 106 passing yards per game this season. Last fall, the Knights allowed 66.5 a contest.

"Defensively, as far as stopping the run, he does a really good job of reading, running to his alley and getting to the football," Oberle said. "We have got to work harder on the pass side of things on the backside. Bryan plays hard. There is no question about that. That is never an issue with him. It's just a matter of technique and cleaning some things up."

Offensively, Victoria rushed for 276 yards in a 34-20 season-opening victory against Macksville. Against St. John, the Knights dipped to just 80 rushing yards.

"I thought first week against Macksville, we were assignment-sound, we did a good job," Oberle said. "Against St John, the pressure that they were bringing, the multiple fronts, the different looks, they didn't adjust well and you are going to have that with a young offensive line, and hopefully we can continue to grow and learn from our mistakes."

This week, the Knights emphasized improvements on the field, but also playing with more energy and enthusiasm. Ottley smiled when he thought about all the changes Victoria still needed.

"We need to get a lot better," he said. "There is so much room for improvement, it's crazy. It's good to not be in last week any more."

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