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Victoria travels to Fowler for opener

Published on -10/30/2012, 10:03 AM

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Victoria High School coach Doug Oberle knows his team's schedule has helped the Knights clearly define their strengths and weaknesses. Victoria is 6-3 and has played Eight-Man, Division II's most difficult strength of schedule, according to preppowerindex.com.

"I really feel like our schedule should help us out this time of the year as long as we are healthy," Oberle said. "I feel like we are relatively healthy."

The Knights qualified for the playoffs for the 11th straight season, continuing the longest current run in Kansas eight-man football. Victoria will travel to Fowler (8-1) in the first round of the playoffs Tuesday. Among players who see significant playing time, only senior lineman Nathan Kuhn (foot) is considered questionable.

The Goldbugs have outscored opponents 394-160 under first-year coach Matt Bell. Fowler has improved its defense significantly from last season where it allowed 410 points. Fowler already has seen a five-win improvement from last year. Junior Taylin Bird has thrown for 894 yards with a 15/3 TD/INT ratio. Junior Tem Shetley has rushed for 901 yards and 20 scores.

"They are a very basic team," Oberle said. "They are going to come off the ball. They are going to run extremely hard. They are going to do a good job up front, and then when they spread you out, they've got a 6-foot-3 wide receiver that will go up and catch a lot of footballs, and that's a difficult matchup for us. The quarterback is very slippery in terms of difficulty to get on the ground."

Oberle has been pleased with his offense, especially junior quarterback Sam Ottley, a dual run-pass threat. Victoria has produced several all-state and all-conference quarterbacks in his tenure, including Jordan Ottley, Garrett Dreiling and Corey Dinkel. However, Oberle called Sam Ottley probably his best dual-threat quarterback since Cody Von Lintel helped the Knights win a state title in 2006. Plus, senior running back/linebacker Dalton Dreiling has returned three weeks ago after he missed nearly all of the first six games because of a knee injury.

Ottley has rushed 112 times for 733 yards with 16 scores. He has completed 49 of 103 passes for 900 yards and 13 scores. Wideout Noah Dreiling has 28 catches for 534 yards and nine TDs.

"I think Dalton has done a good job, I really do," Oberle said. "I think he is still kind of getting into shape a little bit in terms of having that burst and having that speed and having it throughout the game, but I think he brings a presence to our huddle defensively and offensively that we lacked at certain times throughout the year."

Oberle, though, would like to see continued improvement in a few areas. Victoria's three losses came against St. John-Hudson, Ness City and Otis-Bison, squads that a combined 25-2. Victoria lost all three contests by at least 12 points, though was down by more than 20 late in each game.

"This team, at times, I don't feel like we compete the way we need to compete," Oberle said. "There are times in those games there when we have played against these really good football teams, it felt like we just kind of stopped competing, and that's something we have got to change. We can't just come out and just play even with people. We've got to continue to try to make plays. We've got to be aggressive, and physical and understand and know in our heads that we are going to go out and make plays."

Oberle would like to see some improvement from a defense that has allowed 26.2 points per contest. Last week, the Knights defeated Wilson, 58-8, but the Dragons, known for their high-scoring offense, moved the ball well.

"Disappointed a little bit defensively," Oberle said. "I think we need to do a little bit better job of getting three-and-outs, making people punt the ball. I just don't feel like we are doing a very good job from the 5 to the 5. I know Wilson really pushed the ball up and down the field on us, and we were lucky enough to keep them out of the end zone."

Big defense for Wildcats

Sharon Springs (8-0) will play host to Beloit-St. John's-Tipton (8-1) on Tuesday. The Wildcats have qualified for the playoffs for seven straight seasons under coach Kevin Ayers, and for the first time since 2007, are considered a state title contender. Most of that is because of a defense that ranks No. 1 in Eight-Man Division II at 58 points allowed all season. Only one other team has allowed fewer than 116 points.

"Those kids have really come along, probably a little faster than I expected them to, and that's exciting," Ayers said. "The difference physically that a year makes and maybe even more so in the mental aspects of the game, understanding what you are to do, how you are to do it and when to do it."

Ayers has an experienced defense and two strong defensive ends in Callahan Grund and Clay Schemm.

"It's the toughest mental place to play on our defense," Ayers said of defensive end. "I really respect how those kids have come along. In the scheme of things, they are probably not going to be your leading tackler, but they are eating blocks, they are making them bounce, they are turning it in, they are just asked to do so many things. To me, it is the toughest position to play on the field."

In other games, Otis-Bison (8-1) plays host to Rolla (7-2). Weskan (8-1) will travel to Kensington-Thunder Ridge (8-1).

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