Game of the Week: Wissman a workhorse for Otis-Bison
Published on -10/4/2012, 10:26 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
11In Wissman's first three seasons, he collected more than 3,000 yards of total offense and 55 career offensive touchdowns.
However, he only had three contests where he carried the ball at least 20 times -- all in 2011. Wissman entered this fall with no games where he received more than 23 carries.
This year, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Wissman has become a workhorse running back, partially because of the Cougars' lack of depth and inexperience at skill positions. Wissman already has 134 carries for 882 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. In four games, he has carried the ball at least 24 times, including games with 37 and 34 carries.
On Friday, Otis-Bison, ranked No. 5 in Eight-Man Division II in the statewide media poll at 4-1 overall, 1-0 in district, plays host to rival Victoria (3-2, 1-0).
"That's the thing that is so impressive about him at this point in his career," Oberle said. "Because two or three years ago, I don't know if anybody thought he was a 30- to 35-carry- a-night kid. So far, he has been able to hold up. As far as his ability on the field, I would be hard-pressed to say we are going to face anybody with as much pure athleticism, stop-and-go ability, just really crafty runner as he is."
Wissman ranks fourth in Kansas and second in the area among eight-man players in rushing yards, according to maxpreps.com. As well, he stands second in the state among eight-man running backs in carries, trailing only Scandia-Pike Valley's Robert Cox (162).
"I like it. Whatever makes us win. Sam could be getting the handoffs and scoring," Wissman said, turning to senior center Sam Higgason. "Doesn't matter."
He is just nine carries behind his total from last season, a year that produced 1,203 rushing yards and 21 scores. Eighth-year coach Travis Starr isn't worried about Wissman's carries. Instead, he is more focused on the number of big hits Wissman takes.
"He is going to have to carry the ball, and we are going to do a better job up front blocking for him," Starr said. "He is going to have to get a lot of carries this week, and hopefully after that, we are going to be able to start limiting him a little bit."
Wissman entered the fall with very little summer training. Last winter, Wissman was a key member of the Cougar basketball team that finished as state runner-up in Class 1A Division II. Before sub-state, he suffered a bone chip in his ankle and had problems with some ligaments.
Wissman competed in track, but was limited and couldn't jump. This summer, Wissman rested the ankle and was back to full strength a few weeks before camp. He could complete stationary movements in the weight room, but couldn't do any cleans. Wissman hasn't had any lingering effects from the lack of conditioning, but has felt some tiredness.
In the past three years, Otis-Bison lost one regular season game and won 25 contests by the 45-point mercy rule. Wissman rarely had to carry the ball more than a few times. This season, the Cougars have played the 23rd most difficult schedule out of 50 Division II teams, according to preppowerindex.com.. The Cougars have needed Wissman for four quarters every week.
"It's been fun," he said. "Beginning of the season, it kind of set into me that we might have to play longer games, and I was excited for it and like it so far."
Starr had planned to have Wissman as the offense's focal point entering the season and often had Otis-Bison run from a one-back set instead of the Cougars' usual two-back I-formation. Wissman was the lone returning player who rushed for more than 75 yards or caught more than one pass. Starr wanted to have junior fullback Jordan Hoffman take some carries, but Hoffman has been banged up with a knee injury for part of the year.
Plus, Wissman has needed to carry the ball out of necessity because of a struggling passing game. Junior Kole Urban took over for two-year starter Trevor Keller, who tossed 40 TDs in 2010-11. Urban, a defensive back, saw significant playing time on defense as a sophomore because of injuries and likes that side of the ball better.
"Last year, it was like 'Oh my gosh, I hope I don't screw up, and I hope I make a tackle, and this year, it's like I go out there, and it's no big deal," Urban said. "You just do what your instinct tells you to do, and you will end up making the right play."
Urban leads the team with 43 tackles and three forced turnovers. He and Wissman are tied for the team lead with two pass breakups.
"He has been a great player for us on defense," Starr said. "He is right in the right spots. He comes up and makes a tackle for us when he needs to."
However, Urban has completed 13 of 30 passes for 177 yards with 2 touchdowns against zero interceptions. Urban has five fumbles, though four came in Week 3 against Hoxie. Still, Urban has improved and had his best statistical game last Friday. He rushed for 160 yards and two scores and passed for a season-high 50 yards and a TD. Several times, Otis-Bison needed short yardage, and Urban changed the snap count and forced Dighton to go offsides in a 50-34 victory.
"Last year looked up to Trevor a lot because he was a great leader and a good football player and I just wanted to be the leader of the team and so far, I think I am getting better," Urban said.
Even with Urban's strong game, Wissman recorded 26 carries for 150 yards and caught two passes for 38 yards. Starr plans to stick with his workhorse, a dynamic player who has befuddled defenders for four years.
"He can lower his shoulder and he can run hard and there are times when he is just going to make you look silly out there," Oberle said. "Those are unpleasant times, but you know he is going to have those types of runs. You've just got to get back up and try to continue to contain him and keep him down as much as you can. He is obviously the focus of their offense and for good reason."