NESS CITY — The Otis-Bison Cougars wrote in ‘Ness City Eagles’ on their schedules a tad bolder this year. Their Central Prairie League opponent disparaged the Cougars — who were 2-0 at the time — by 50 points on their home turf, leading to a dismal 2-4 ending to a undermining season.
Friday finally arrived for Travis Starr’s squad , which had no intention of allowing Ness City a chance of a repeat performance, as junior quarterback Kade Urban rushed for six touchdowns and left the Eagles’ defense befuddled in a 58-20 victory served with ice cold revenge.
“I feel like it was the most important game,” Urban said. “We actually executed and we actually won. In the past, we didn’t execute right. I feel like this time we executed right and got a ‘W’ on the board.”
While the battle was won on defense, the war was won in all phases of the game by the Cougars. Two bad snaps on Eagles punts and a failed rushing attempt on a fake punt late in the game gave the Cougars a short field all night. Junior running back Brad Lightfoot and Urban majestically worked the ball around the field with the success of their read-option.
“Crazy, crazy reads. They were really cracking down on me hard and he knew when to pull it and go around the outside,” Lightfoot said. “Ness just didn’t take very good angles. Whenever you see they’re not taking good angles, you gotta take advantage of it.”
Lightfoot pounded the ball on the Eagles’ defense for touchdowns on the first two Otis-Bison drives, which put lots of attention on the 5-7 tailback. From then on, the Eagles worked tirelessly to stop Lightfoot from getting on the inside gaps, leaving space around the edge for Urban to fake a handoff and jet upfield for the Cougars’ final six touchdowns.
“Once you settle down on offense, Lightfoot — they’re not gonna be able to stop that kid. He’s too good,” Urban said. “They’re gonna start keying in on him, that’s when other things open up and luckily it opened up for me.”
The Eagles got on the board with 3:05 to play in the first quarter when junior running back Casey Snyder converted a fourth and two in his own territory and took it the distance to cut the deficit to 12-6, though Urban added touchdown runs of 7 and 9 yards to gain a 28-8 advantage at the half.
Urban nearly connected on a knockout punch to the Eagles on the first play of the second half. Lightfoot ran a deep route over the middle and the ball soared just out of reach. A 23-yard run by Lightfoot put the Cougars near the goalline before Urban ran in his third touchdown of the night.
Ness City’s first play of the half sparked life into the team when senior Dylan Hamilton connected with Jared Fellhoelter for a 26-yard gain. A bad snap on an attempted punt set up the Cougars for a 17-yard scamper by Urban to take a commanding 42-8 lead midway through the third.
The Eagles never could find the same success in the running game as senior Hayden Maier along with a pair of freshman, Luke Higgason and Landon Hoopingarner, controlled the line of scrimmage all night. The Cougars’ 3-3 front was a new look to the Eagles and sent their running backs running sideline to sideline all night with very few chances at vertical runs.
“The teams that run it, they have that little niche and they know how to run it,” said Marc Cowles, the veteran head coach who is in his first year at Ness City. “Travis is one that knows how to run it. They’re just so fast, there’s always an extra guy in the box. It’s hard to account for all of them. You have to be able to win battles at the point of attack to get to that next level and we couldn’t do that. They’re just really good.”
This game served as a gauge for Starr as to where his team was at after two relatively easy victories to start the season.
“There’s gonna be things, I told them I’m gonna find stuff this weekend and Monday, some of them are gonna get a lecture again, but we’ll find something to work on,” Starr said. “We had great pursuits, we were getting off blocks. We have a freshman playing defensive end that looks like a dang senior out there. … It was a big team effort and we wrapped up, swarmed to the ball and got after it.”
The ensuing Eagles’ drive found them inching closer to paydirt after Lightfoot was called for a pass interference in his own end zone. Hamilton eventually connected with senior receiver Luis Rodriguez for a 3-yard score.
The Eagles recovered an onside kick and an Urban fumble in the next two possessions but were never able to penetrate the Cougar defense. Urban added two short touchdown runs in the fourth quarter while Hamilton added another long Eagle touchdown run for the final score of 58-20.
The Cougars seemingly made it over the first bump in their schedule and look less like the 2013-14 teams that combined to go 7-11 and more like the 9-2 Cougars of 2012 who won on their impenetrable defense. Lightfoot said his team has more than just a never-ending motor, something that will make them tough to beat.
“We just play with a lot of heart,” Lightfoot said. “You can’t be heart.”
When asked if Otis-Bison is back as an eight-man team to be reckoned with and to the form of his freshman year, Maier is confident in his answer.
“I think so,” he said. “After playing those first two games that weren’t really that close, our confidence was at an even level. But after playing a team like this that we were really motivated to play, and that came out pretty big. Now our confidence level has kinda gone through the roof now.”
Knowing how long Otis-Bison had been looking forward to a chance to avenge last season’s 72-22 home loss, Urban doesn’t see the end in near sight.
“I feel like we’ve got that confidence in us and we can basically beat whoever we think we can beat,” Urban said. “It just drives us further and further to get better everyday. So Monday, we’ll go right back at it.”
While the loss is a tough one, the road does not get any easier for the Eagles. The top Division II and Division I teams welcome Ness City to their home fields, as the Eagles prepare for back-to-back road matches with Victoria and Spearville, though he feels losing to a good football team will help the Eagles know what to expect next week.
A rematch in the highest-scoring affair in Kansas state history, a 104-70 victory against Kinsley, awaits the Cougars next week. But Travis Starr is ready to get through next week and into district play, where a three-game road trip will end against Thunder Ridge — a team Starr has never defeated.
“That’s the next game on the list,” Starr said. “First we gotta get through Kinsley, and then Thunder Ridge.
“We’re gonna show up.”