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Knights overcome obstacles for 10-1 season

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

BELOIT - The Victoria High School football team faced plenty of obstacles and challenges throughout the 2013 season. Coach Doug Oberle's mother, Pauline, had her cancer come back. Injuries and health issues cost seniors Tanner Hobbs, Sam Ottley and Clayton Roth most or virtually all of the year. Among players who saw significant time, senior Nathan Kuhn (200 pounds) was the only one over 175 for a small team.

Still, the Knights finished 10-1, a four-win improvement from 2012. After Saturday's 22-16 Eight Man, Division II second round road playoff loss to Beloit-St. John's/Tipton, the entire team was in tears - especially the five seniors.

"We knew it was going to be a close game and a dogfight," junior running back Bryan Dome said. "Just want to thank all the seniors and all they did, led us through the season."

Victoria trailed 22-0 at halftime against a bigger, more talented team, but rallied in the second half. Victoria had the ball in the final two minutes, but came up short. St. John's-Tipton sacked sophomore quarterback Brady Dinkel twice on the final drive. He eventually threw an interception at the Blujay 35-yard line with 86 seconds left. Dinkel also took a loss on the penultimate series.

"Obviously, the clock was against us, timeouts were against us, we tried to utilize the sideline," Oberle said. "I didn't do a very good job of giving our quarterback an opportunity to make plays for us. I called probably one of the dumbest plays in my life on the second to last series where we took a sack. I just didn't give him an opportunity to make plays. St. John's/Beloit made the plays when they were there, and we didn't."

The Knights reached the playoffs for the 12th straight season and won a playoff game for the second time in the last four years. Still, for months, Victoria was among the state favorites.

"It's pretty good," sophomore Eric McAlonan said. "I still think we should have got a win."

The season changed in Week 4, a 66-28 victory against Claflin-Central Plains, a Central Prairie League foe who made it to the second round of the Eight-Man Division I playoffs. Senior quarterback Sam Ottley went down with a season-ending kneecap injury. Victoria's backfield consisted of Dome, Dinkel and sophomore running back Lane Kisner.

After he took over for Ottley in Week 5, Dinkel completed 27 of 41 passes for 387 yards and 12 scores.

"He has a learning curve," Oberle said. "He is a young kid, he is very confident."

In the final six contests (not including a Week 9 forfeit by Wilson), Dome rushed for 522 yards on 57 carries. He had 15 carries for 224 yards in the first round 50-0 victory against Ingalls and carried 20 times for 90 yards against St. John's-Tipton.

"At Ingalls, he ran hard, which has never been an issue, but really felt like the counter, some of our lead, some of the misdirection plays were really working for us," Oberle said. "He had a great spring, a great summer, did a lot of nice things in the weight room. Was a strong kid last year, but I think over time, you become more experienced. I think he is definitely playing with a lot more confidence than he did last year."

Kisner, at fullback, sometimes carried the ball more than Dome. Kisner is expected to play fullback the next two years; Dome again at tailback.

"He is a very strong kid, still learning a lot in terms of running the ball, in terms of what we are trying to do offensively as a sophomore," Oberle said.

In five of the final six games, Kisner had between 46 and 68 yards. In four of those contests, he recorded between 12 and 17 carries.

"A lot of it is just what the other team is given us," Oberle said. "There is some games where we really felt like the fullback could get off and do some nice things and the defense kind of dictates what you are going to run and what you are going to call."