OTIS — After falling behind by two touchdowns at the beginning of its Eight-Man Division I playoff opener a week ago, the Otis-Bison High School football team wanted to make sure to fall into no such hole in Round 2 on Friday night.
That was the first goal. The next was to grab a win and advance to the school’s seventh sub-state championship game.
Mission accomplished on both accounts.
The Cougars produced touchdowns on their first three possessions against visiting Ingalls, and went on to win 60-14 to capture the sectional championship.
What was the spark that led to a quick start?
“Well, for one thing, recovering the opening kickoff. That’s something we struggled with last week,” said Cougar head coach Travis Starr, whose team reached the semifinal round for the first time since 2011. “Our guys were just ready to go. The offensive line got after it early, and our running backs were running hard. On defense, we stepped up and got a few three-and-outs and kept things going.”
After getting a playoff victory under their belt last week, it allowed the Cougars to settle in this week — and play a bit more loose.
“You know, when you haven’t been in that situation, it definitely tightens you up a little bit,” Starr said.
After big victories the past two weeks, Starr is making sure he and his team don’t get ahead of themselves.
“It’s one game at a time right now. We’ve gotta get better. We gave up some things tonight, so we’ve gotta get better,” the coach said.
Friday night’s win also was a product of a tough week of practice.
“Practice really hit us hard. Coach really got on us, but we had to lock down that first quarter,” said quarterback Anton Foust.
They did just that as they led 20-0 after 12 minutes. Foust, just like his coach, was reluctant to speculate about going all the way. The Cougars advance for a rematch against Jetmore-Hodgeman County, in what ended up a 58-26 home win. Otis-Bison will travel to Jetmore for the sub-state title round.
“I’m not gonna say anything. I don’t wanna jinx it. I sure hope we do though,” Foust said.
The Otis-Bison defense was firing on all cylinders Friday, led by senior Luke Higgason, who recorded 4.5 tackles for loss along with a sack.
“I got a pep talk at the beginning of that week, so that fired me up. We made sure not to underestimate anyone now after we had a slow start last week. So we just had to come out and fight hard,” Higgason said.
The Cougars held Ingalls (8-3) to only 182 total yards, while recording 419 of their own. Daniel Scott was responsible for 213 of those yards as he single-handedly outgained the Bulldog offense. Scott carried the ball 13 times for an average of 16.4 yards per carry and added four touchdowns. Foust carried the ball nine times for 85 yards and a touchdown, while also completing five passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
After the first quarter, Otis-Bison (10-1) never looked back and continued its dominance, extending the lead to 44-6 before halftime — which included a 27-yard touchdown pass to Maitland Wiltse with only 9 seconds remaining.
The only hiccup of the night for Otis-Bison came during its first possession of the third quarter. After forcing Ingalls to go three-and-out, the Cougar offense had made their way to the Bulldog 7-yard line. After Foust was pressured, he completed a shovel pass, which was then attempted to be lateralled, but instead was fumbled and the Bulldogs jumped on it.
A few plays later, Ingalls found the end zone for the second and last time of the night on a 63-yard touchdown pass. However, the Cougars came back vigorously. After a 40-yard run by Foust along with a late flag against Ingalls, the Cougars were at the Bulldog 10. A few plays later, Scott found the end zone.
The defense forced a three-and-out the next possession, and then it only took Scott one play to go 55 yards for the final touchdown. Then Foust connected with Bevin Gradig, who also led the team in tackles for the night, on the two-point conversion to seal the final points needed to end the game.