VICTORIA — The Victoria High School football team led 22-0 with 3 minutes, 46 seconds left in the second quarter in Friday night’s season opener.
On the road at its Central Prairie League rival and facing some extreme adversity, the tendency for some might have been just to cash in the chips and head home.
That wasn’t the case for Otis-Bison.
The Knights had to hold off a gutsy effort by the visiting Cougars to win 28-14 to open the 2018 campaign.
“I loved how we fought out there,” Otis-Bison coach Travis Starr said. “I think we got punched in the mouth early, then in the second half, we started playing a little better.”
The Cougars, though — already a small roster in terms of numbers — played the entire second half without starting quarterback Anton Foust.
They couldn’t quite muster the rally with backup Seth Hoopingarner, but did manage to pull to within one score before the Knights punched in another to put it out of reach and move to 1-0.
“Credit Otis in that second half,” said Victoria coach Doug Oberle. “I thought they turned it up a notch.”
Foust, who scored on a 40-yard run on fourth-and-3 with 55 seconds to play before halftime, didn’t return in the second half as he was suffering from heat exhaustion.
The Cougars’ first score came after Knights quarterback Cooper Windholz had scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and threw one to end Drayden Karlin to have the Knights up 22-0 early in the second quarter. The Knights sustained long drives, and stopped the Cougars on two fourth-down opportunities. The big lead also came after Otis-Bison had a fourth-down TD run by Foust called back on a holding penalty.
Windholz, in his second year as the Knights’ starter, had scoring dives of 1 yard each, and hit Karlin from 16 yards. He finished the night with 42 rushing yards and 41 passing.
“He didn’t put us in any bad spots, but there’s still a comfort level with him,” Oberle said of his quarterback, and said overall he was pleased with his leadership on the field on both sides of the ball. “He’s just got to be a bigger part of the offense.”
The Knights, though, turned to their defense after the big lead, something Oberle was concerned with heading into the season, particularly his team’s ability to tackle.
Outside of the Cougars’ two big scoring plays, he said they were solid.
Hoopingarner, though, who hasn’t had too many reps for the Cougars, nearly brought them back.
He bursted through the line early in the third quarter for 42 yards to make it a one-score game.
The Knights’ Tyler Knoles capped a long drive, though, with the team’s third 1-yard score late in the third quarter.
“You just rely on your seniors and your line (in that situation),” Starr said. “(Hoopingarner) showed us a lot tonight. He’s a savvy, smart kid.”
The Cougars are still getting new running back Bevan Gradig acclimated to the offense, which was a big reason why Foust was used heavy early. He was feeling the effects at halftime.
“There was no reason to run him back out there in the second half,” Starr said of the senior QB. “He’ll be fine.”
In desperation mode late, Hoopingarner was picked off three times — twice by Victoria junior Layton Riedel.
Kirk Huser, a junior nose guard for the Knights, finished with nine tackles with one for loss.
Windholz had 11 tackles, in a limited first-half role on defense.
Victoria (1-0) is at Claflin-Central Plains (1-0) next week, while Otis-Bison will be at home to face Bucklin.
Victoria 28, Otis-Bison 14
OTIS-BISON (0-1) 0 6 8 0 — 14
VICTORIA (1-0) 14 8 6 0 — 28
V — Windholz 1 run (Pruitt run).
V — Karlin 16 pass from Windholz (run failed).
V — Windholz 1 run (Schulte run).
OB — Foust 39 run (run failed)l.
OB — Hoopingarner 42 run (Higgason run).
V — KNoles 1 run (run failed).