Otis looks to right the ship
By NICK McQUEEN
In the 2011 season, the Otis-Bison High School football team suffered two losses.
The Cougars were one of only two teams to put up more than six points on Kensington-Thunder Ridge all season, but it resulted in two setbacks to the same Longhorn team, the eventual undefeated Eight-Man Division II state champion.
While the Cougars have a little redemption in mind in Saturday's 2 p.m. regional title game in Otis, they also know it's two different clubs taking the field -- and it's a new opportunity.
"We have a new team, they have a new team. We graduated quite a few, they graduated quite a few," Otis-Bison coach Travis Starr said. "But, that one stung a little bit last year and they had a heck of a ball team."
The one he was referring to was Thunder Ridge's 54-26 win in Otis to reach the title round, where the Longhorns defeated Baileyville-B&B. The sub-state loss came one season after Otis-Bison took second in state. That sets the tone for Saturday's bout. In the sub-state match last season, Otis-Bison allowed Thunder Ridge to turn two fourth downs into scores and a 16-0 lead.
"We've been looking forward to this game since last year," Otis-Bison junior quarterback Kole Urban said. "It's going to be a bit of a reunion."
Urban played one of his better offensive games and one of his worst mental games of the season all in one in Otis-Bison's 54-0 first-round rout of Rolla on Tuesday. While rushing for two scores and 87 yards and passed for 73 yards on seven attempts with one score, Urban had trouble with handoffs to standout senior tailback Dylan Wissman. The Cougars put three balls on the ground and lost one of them.
"I didn't play my best game, and there are a lot of things I need to fix," Urban said. "I had a lot of mental screw-ups, and we can't have those against Thunder Ridge."
Those kind of mishaps have reared their head on and off throughout the season, Starr said.
"We get rid of it for a few games, then it comes back. We don't have those mistakes on the practice field, but we get out here on the game field, and it comes back," Starr said. "I don't know if it's nerves or what kicking in. We get to Saturday, and those things can't happen."
Mistakes or not, teams have had trouble stopping what Otis-Bison (9-1) has to offer, namely in Wissman, among the state's best in rushing yards and rushing scores. Wissman has 224 carries for 1,798 yards and 40 TDs. His yardage is second only to Minneola's Matt McClaren (2,033), and the 40 TDs leads the state, according to maxpreps.com.
"He's a tough back. Lot of people are going to key on him. He's my definition of a good back," said Rolla coach Jonathan Schnable, who guided his Pirates team to a 7-3 mark after they were 0-9 in 2011. "We have a good one, but (Wissman) runs the way you should -- hard, fast and tough to bring down."
Wissman has rushed for at least 109 yards in each game this season. Against Hoxie in a 56-22 loss to the Indians, Wissman had 24 carries for 109 (4.54 average), but scored twice. In that game, Hoxie's leading tackler, lineman Brandon Salmans, had a season-high 17 tackles.
Thunder Ridge (9-1) rides an eight-game win streak since dropping its opener, 62-12, to Rock Hills, a team still alive in the
"With coach (Jerry Voorhees), I'm sure they have a heck of a good one again," Starr said. "They're going to be tough, going to be physical, but you want to play whoever you can on Saturday."