They knew the change was coming.
The only question for the 2017 Victoria High School football team was when.
It just so happened the season opener provided the perfect opportunity, like perhaps a higher football entity had it in mind the whole time.
When the skies opened up and postponed the remainder of the Knights’ season-opening game at Claflin-Central Plains, that’s when it happened.
Victoria had to wait a day to finish off a 34-8 win over the perennial CPL power, but did so in the continuation with a new look.
After starting the game at quarterback, senior Collin Kisner made the switch to a more versatile role in the backfield and also lined up as a receiver. That opened the door for junior Cooper Windholz to take over as the Knights’ QB.
It was a move Victoria had slowly worked him into through the summer.
“We tried to get Cooper in last year,” Knights coach Doug Oberle said. “We think we’re a bit better where we can move Collin around a little bit more, get him the ball in different spots.”
And the move paid off. Entering Friday’s Eight-Man Division I, District 4 showdown with unbeaten Bennington, the Knights carry a 4-1 record and moved to 1-0 in district play with a 50-26 win against previously unbeaten Logan-Palco.
Windholz, who saw minimal action as a sophomore, enjoyed his best game. He completed 5 of 8 passes for 100 yards and threw three touchdown passes, just one week removed from going 0-for-5 for the Knights’ in their lone loss, a 22-20 setback to CPL foe Otis-Bison.
“Pretty much just get in the groove,” Windholz said. “I’ve just got to keep improving my game.
“Everyone needs to improve, but I really need to improve.”
Outside of last Friday, Windholz’ best game was in a 50-0 win in Week 3. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 81 yards and three scores.
“We have to find a way to throw the ball and be successful,” Oberle said. “We’ve got to get better pass blocking, route running, throwing the ball, catching the ball.”
Windholz at QB gives the Knights that option.
“Coop has a great arm, and is a much better passer than I am,” Kisner said. “He adds another dimension to our team.”
The switch at quarterback also has allowed Kisner and senior Cooper Pfanenstiel to split up carries. Kisner leads the club with 59 carries for 605 yards and 11 scores. Pfanenstiel, more of a smashmouth runner, has 57 carries for 369 yards.
It’s among many changes for the Knights, including their record at this point in the season. Victoria started 0-1 in district play a year ago with a young team, and ended up missing the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, something that didn’t sit well with the program.
With Windholz at quarterback, Kisner said, it gives Victoria the opportunity to put its best team on the field, and that’s what it will take this week against a 5-0 Bennington team.
“We’re starting to find ourselves more than we had earlier in the season,” said Kisner. “We have to come out and be strong mentally, and we have to do our jobs.”
Thought to be the starting quarterback for at least a little bit longer, Kisner is happy with the switch. The standout sprinter has fought some back soreness this season, but is ready to just do whatever it takes for the Knights to get the job done, make it back to the playoffs and perhaps make a run at the Division I state title game. Last week’s win against Logan-Palco (a loss last season) was a step in the right direction, but there still is work to be done.
“It was definitely a confidence booster,” Kisner said of beating the Trojans. “But like the coaches said all week if we don’t take care of business this week, the win last week doesn’t mean anything.”
Following this week’s game, Victoria continues the district gauntlet with a road trip to defending Eight-Man I state champion Osborne.