HOXIE — The plan seemed simple enough for first-year head coach Brandon Wise and the Osborne High School football team against defending Eight-Man Division I state champion Hoxie.
All the Bulldogs wanted to do was try and slow down Hoxie’s run game and make Hoxie senior quarterback Jared Kennedy go to the air.
Kennedy delivered. Hoxie’s formidable defense did the rest, helping the Indians deliver a 52-20 pull-away win to move to 2-0 for the year.
“We loaded up the box, kind of went to a non-traditional defense,” said Wise, whose Bulldogs had erased a 28-6 deficit to make it a one-score game in the early stages of the third quarter. “We wanted to take that run away or at least limit them to 3 or 4 yards.”
To a certain extent, the Bulldogs succeeded. But Kennedy had a backup option.
“Make him beat us with the pass, and then well … he beat us with the pass,” Wise said.
Facing third and long in a 28-20 game, Kennedy hit junior Dylan Weimer for a 13-yard first down, then one play later threw a perfect strike to junior Ben Aumiller for a 36-yard score.
“He’s a precision arm and a good decision maker,” Hoxie coach Lance Baar said of Kennedy. “He did really well for us tonight.”
The TD strike probably couldn’t have been placed any better.
“That was a morale boost for us,” said senior lineman Colton Heskett, in his first game this season after an ankle injury. “That was a great pass, right in the ol’ breadbasket.”
It was the the first of four straight touchdowns as Hoxie pulled away to turn what looked to be a knock-down drag-out, into a blowout.
“We came out in the second half, and put our foot down, and didn’t give up,” said Kennedy, who finished with 100 passing yards and a pair of scores, connecting on 6 of 8 attempts for Hoxie, the No. 1-ranked team in Eight-Man Division I.
The rout finish, though, came after Osborne — ranked No. 2 in Eight-Man II — erased the big early deficit. Aside from a 79-yard kickoff return for a score by Osborne junior Darrien Holloway to tie things at 6, Hoxie seemed well in control.
Kennedy rushed for a 2-yard score to open the game, hit senior Jarrod Dible from 7 yards for a score, and broke loose for a 61-yard sprint to make it 28-6 with 7:03 to play before halftime.
“The defense bit real hard,” Kennedy said of the long run, where he virtually was untouched. “I pulled, got one guy to miss, and it was wide open.”
Not to be outdone, though, Osborne senior quarterback Darnell Holloway went to the air. After having rushed for 356 yards and seven scores in Osborne’s 88-point outing a week ago, Holloway had to test the arm, hitting senior Kade Miller from 7 yards to make it a 28-14 game just before halftime. The senior also had an interception near the goal line, or things might have been even closer. To start the third quarter, he hit Darrien Holloway from 37 yards to start to make it a one-score game.
Eventually, Heskett said, the Indians knew they would wear down.
“We just started breaking them down,” said Heskett, who finished with five tackles, and had a scoop fumble he returned 40 yards for a score in the fourth quarter. “Just keep driving, keep driving. Get them tired and break their will.”
A big reason for that was the running game from senior Wylie Weems on Friday. In a workhorse effort, Weems pounded the D-line all night for 29 carries, 159 yards and three rushing scores.
“Today was good. He really ran the ball today,” Kennedy said. “He wanted it too.”
A week removed from his monster rushing night, Darnell Holloway had just 27 rushing yards on nine carries and fumbled once, and had an interception.
“Really impressed with our defense to come up with a couple big turnovers in the second half,” Baar said. “They got it closer after halftime.”
But after Hoxie flexed its muscle, Wise said, Osborne got its head down. The Bulldogs had just 11 healthy players available Friday, and had a distinct size disadvantage, especially up front against Hoxie’s 6-foot-2, 215-pound, 6-5, 335, and 5-11, 220 trio of Heskett, Taye Washington and Dible. Throw in senior Sam Bretz, a 5-8, 180-pound linebacker who recorded 11 tackles Friday, and it meant a long night for the Bulldogs.
“There at the end, they were doing what they had been doing, and we started being undisciplined trying to make stuff happen,“ Wise said.
Hoxie will be on the road to face Quinter on Friday, while Osborne will return home to face Stockton. Quinter was close to snapping its now 30-game losing streak Friday, falling 50-44 at Atwood-Rawlins County.