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8-man playoffs - Knights face unbeaten St. John's-Tipton

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Victoria High School football team has had season-ending injuries to quarterback Sam Ottley and running back Clayton Roth, a duo who also started at linebacker and defensive back. Senior Tanner Hobbs, a starting end on both sides, has missed most of the year before he returned in the last two weeks.

Amidst all the changes, coach Doug Oberle has one constant: the defensive line. The Knights have strong depth with six players, three seniors and three sophomores, who have seen plenty of playing time.

The defensive front has helped Victoria open 10-0 and earn the No. 3 ranking in Eight-Man Division II in the statewide media poll. On Saturday, the Knights travel to 10-0 and No. 4-ranked Beloit/St. John's-Tipton for a 4 p.m. start. Junior quarterback Trey Dubbert has completed 54 of 91 passes for 931 yards and an 18/3 TD/INT ratio.

"Kept us in games and given us opportunities to be successful behind them at the second and third levels," Oberle said. "Going into the season, I felt like we were pretty strong there. They've definitely lived up to that."

Victoria opened the playoffs with a 50-0 home win against Ingalls on Tuesday. Junior running back Bryan Dome finished with 15 carries for 224 yards and three scores.

"It's less about a beauty contest and more about a win. I felt we were sloppy at times offensively, but we did enough things right to win," Oberle said.

While the Knights offense has received plenty of praise during the season, Victoria's defense actually has the higher ranking in the classification. The Knights have permitted just 100 points, third-best in Eight-Man Division II. The offense stands sixth at 459 points.

"We were fairly athletic overall at this position, going into the season, we were pretty happy about that," Oberle said. "It's such a tough position at D-line. To have some depth and some quality depth has been great for us and for those guys. Hopefully we are able to keep them fresh and keep them on the field and really utilize what they can do."

Victoria has played seniors Nathan Kuhn, Trenton Klaus and Hobbs along with sophomores Eric McAlonan, Brandon Brungardt and Wheaton Hockersmith.

"Early in the year, Brandon was playing a lot of defense for us," Oberle said. "I thought he did a great job. We tried to hold him out a little bit over there just to have him concentrate on the offensive side, but all six of those guys have been really good for us."

Kuhn is mainly playing nose guard and has spent some time at defensive end. In one package, Victoria runs a two-front inside of the normal three-front and Kuhn has played in a couple different roles. Among the victories, the Knights defeated Central Plains 66-28 in Week 4, Dighton 20-0 in Week 7 and the Ingalls 50-0 Tuesday. Dighton and Central Plains remain alive in the postseason.

"We are getting better. The injuries kind of forced our hand a little bit in terms of guys on the field, making them play and giving them minutes," Oberle said.

Central Plains hasn't scored fewer than 36 points in any other contest and averages 49 points per game. Dighton averages 35 points per game, while Ingalls averaged 26. Against Ingalls, the Knights finished plus-4 in turnover margin. McAlonan and Kuhn had one tackle for loss and Victoria recorded no sacks. However, the Knights held Ingalls to 115 total yards and just two first downs. Oberle said the key was keeping the gaps closed and the opponents' offense bottled up.

"We are not a big penetration team," Oberle said. "We are more of a get your read and react. We are not necessarily going to fill up the stat sheet with tackles for loss or even just getting sacks. But at the end of the day, if we can do our jobs and occupy offensive linemen and allow our second two guys to make tackles ... we can be successful on that side."