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Top stories 2013 -- Knights battle the odds

12/26/2013

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The 2013 Victoria High School football team and town went through several trying experiences this fall. Coach Doug Oberle's mother, Pauline, had her cancer return. Maria Goetz, a well-known Victoria resident, has cancer, too.

On the field, the Knights had multiple injuries to key players. Senior tailback/defensive back Clayton Roth went down with a season-ending collarbone injury in Week 1. Senior Tanner Hobbs missed most of the season with an appendix issue.

Senior quarterback Sam Ottley had likely the most-publicized injury of any Kansas player this season when he suffered a knee injury in Week 4 against Central Plains and missed the rest of the fall.

"Very freak accident," Oberle said. "Wasn't really even a direct hit or anything like that. It's one of those things in life, you scratch your head, and you wonder why."

The trio of players combined for nine-plus years of starting experience. Still, the Knights, considered a state favorite at the start of 2013, delivered another season the close-knit community was proud of.

Victoria finished 10-1 and lost on the road to Beloit/St. John's-Tipton in the second round of the Eight-Man Division II playoffs. The Knights' season was one of The Hays Daily News top stories for 2013.

"He is just like our dad," junior running back Bryan Dome said of Oberle after the loss. "We have been with him since December working with him in the weight room and everything, so we just treat him like our second dad."

The game encapsulated the fall for the Knights. St. John's had more seniors, a much more experienced quarterback and the edge in height and athleticism. Only two seniors, all-league linemen Nathan Kuhn and Trenton Klaus, played the whole season for the Knights.

Victoria fell down 22-0, but, helped by a goal line stand, fought back and closed the gap to 22-16. The Knights had a chance to tie or win in the end, but fell short by the same margin. Victoria has now reached the playoffs 11 straight seasons, the longest current streak in Kansas eight-man football. The Knights won their district for the first time since 2008 and collected a quality victory against Dighton, who reached the second round of the playoffs, after Ottley was injured.

After the injury, Dome led the offense with more than 522 rushing yards on 57 carries, including 224 on the ground in a first round playoff victory against Ingalls.

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

The players all shaved their heads to honor Pauline Oberle and Goetz before the St. John contest.

Following the game, Oberle became emotional when he talked about the team and town.

"It's been a tough year for me personally, but these guys have done a great job all year of surprising me," he said. "They are a good group of kids. I didn't know they were going to do that."

Oberle, 72-18 in eight years as the Knights' head coach, then started to tear again.

"They have been great to my family all year," he said. "I don't want to take away from these guys. These guys had a great year. The whole community has done a great job of being there for me and my family. Treated us very well, and I am very grateful and thankful for the community, and the support that they have showed."