By NICK McQUEEN
An Eight-Man Division II state championship. A 12-1 record with 12 straight victories.
And a state best 13 straight playoff appearances.
Something is working right for the Victoria High School football team.
In November, the Knights secured the school's sixth state championship -- its third since switching to eight-man -- and won it in convincing fashion against Attica-Argonia at Fischer Field in Newton.
The Knights' run at the title was one of the HDN's top stories of the year.
After a season-opening loss to Eight-Man Division I state champ Claflin-Central Plains, the Knights went on to win 12 straight games. After putting up 24 points in the opener, Victoria scored 48.7 points per game in its 11 other games played. The other win came via forfeit, a 1-0 win in the book for the Knights.
Victoria won a district that featured two other top teams in the state. The Knights went into Beloit and beat last season's Division II sub-state runner-up, Beloit/St. John's-Tipton, 68-56. The following week, the Knights wrapped up their district title and state-best 13th straight playoff appearance with a 58-34 win against Thunder Ridge in Victoria.
The Knights' success came against Division II's toughest schedule, according to preppowerindex.com, as they defeated Hoxie, a sub-state runner-up last season in Division I, and perennial contender Sharon Springs-Wallace County, last year's Division II state runner-up, in the playoffs.
Against Hoxie, the Knights fell in a 12-0 hole, but battled back to win 34-20 at home in the first round.
"We have gotten better each and every week. This time of year, it's all about win and advance," Knights ninth-year coach Doug Oberle said following the Hoxie game. "These guys, hopefully, we learned a few lessons tonight about how to play in the postseason."
The following game, Victoria went on the road to win 64-12 against Minneola, and earn the right to host Wallace County for the sub-state title.
Victoria turned in a dominant defensive performance against one of the state's highest scoring teams. The Knights contained playmaking quarterback Eric Gfeller and the Wildcats to just 12 points, while Victoria junior quarterback Brady Dinkel went to work to score 28 in the victory. That came after Victoria had punted and fumbled twice on its first three possessions.
"We just had to come together as a team, work together and fight through adversity until that one big play happened we could break through and win the game," junior lineman Brandon Brungardt said after the win.
Dinkel, an eventual HDN All-Area Super 11 selection, finished the game with three touchdowns, and knocked down three Wildcat passes on defense. Senior Bryan Dome also had a kickoff return for the Knights' other score.
In the state game, Dinkel and Dome delivered again against previously unbeaten Attica-Argonia, although this time it seemed like less of a challenge.
Victoria manhandled the Titans, putting up 298 yards compared to Attica-Argonia's 27.
"We practiced all week on defense. We knew they were a good offense. We just had to come out and play hard on defense and if we did that we knew we could get the job done," Dome said following the title game. "It just means a lot. I know it's my last game, so we just knew we had to come out and I asked all the guys if they would do it for me and Noah and that's what they did. They did it for us."
Dome finished his career with a 215-yard performance on 17 carries. Victoria had just one other senior -- tight end Noah Dreiling. Everyone else looks to return for 2015 under Oberle, the HDN Coach of the Year.
The Knights also won eight-man titles in 2004 and 2006, and had a runner-up showing in 2008. Victoria also had 11-man state titles in 1981, '85 and '88. Oberle pushed his career record to 84-20. It was the second eight-man title in his tenure.