By NICK McQUEEN
Speaking after his Victoria High School football team defeated Sharon Springs-Wallace County in the Eight-Man Division II sub-state championship game in November, Doug Oberle was nowhere near taking any credit for his team's accomplishments.
Nor has he ever been. And probably never will.
Most of the time, the ninth-year head coach likes to first credit the kids in the program, then second the past kids in the program who have helped keep a strong tradition alive.
The Knights, while winning the school's sixth state championship a week later with a 52-8 rout of Attica-Argonia in the title game, made the playoffs for the 13th straight season, and claimed the program's third eight-man championship. And, they did it with 12 straight wins after a season-opening loss to Eight-Man I state champ Claflin-Central Plains. The 13th straight playoff appearance is the longest active streak in eight-man.
The constant in the past nine seasons, though, has been Oberle. And for his efforts in guiding Victoria the distance for a second time in his tenure, Oberle was named the HDN's top coach on the 31st annual HDN All-Area Super 11 Football Team.
"We had really good teams that have worked their butt off that haven't been able to make this trip we're going to make," Oberle said after his club defeated Wallace County to make the title game. "It just speaks volumes about the program."
Oberle talked about the kids who buy into the program, hitting the weights, and putting in all the extra offseason time.
"I'm proud of these guys, and it's a great feeling for the program," Oberle said of making the state title game. "I'm happy. I don't know what else to say.
"Our summer workouts are phenomenal and our kids get in there as much as they can."
It helped this season having guys like junior quarterback Brady Dinkel, senior running back Bryan Dome, junior running back Lane Kisner and senior tight end Noah Dreiling returning as starters. But the Knights had big questions all across the offense and defensive lines, positions that ended up being some of the best for Victoria. The Knights arguably turned in their most impressive defensive line performances in the sub-state and state title games when they helped hold contain two of Division II's highest scoring teams well below their season averages. Attica-Argonia was all of eight-man's highest-scoring team, and had just eight points.
What's more, Oberle's Knights accomplished all it did this season against Eight-Man Division II's toughest schedule, according to preppowerindex.com. Victoria managed a district that featured state potential contenders Beloit/St. John's-Tipton and Thunder Ridge, then got through Hoxie, Minneola, and previously unbeaten Wallace County in the rounds leading up to state. The Knights outscored their playoff opponents 178-52.
The Knights were the fifth-highest scoring team in Division II against the toughest schedule, and allowed 214 points (sixth best in Division II). After ending the title game early via the mercy rule with a dominant performance, Oberle spoke again about seeing his club play for a title for the third time in his tenure as head coach. The Knights won it in his first year in 2006, then were runners-up in 2008.
"If this gets old, quit doing what you are doing as a coach. Just turn around and look at this. Small town USA coming together, supporting their kids, supporting their school," Oberle said following the win.
With a strong nucleus coming back in 2015, the Knights could again be the favorite to make it to Newton. Oberle pushed his overall record to 84-20, and looks to enter his 10th season in August.