Since Day 1 of the 2018 football season, many have been talking about the fact it was all Hanover vs. Osborne for the Eight-Man Division II state football championship.
First the teams had to get there. Mission accomplished — in a big way.
Top-ranked Hanover (11-0 and on a 37-game winning streak) will face Osborne (11-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Newton’s Fischer Field.
“We’re pumped,” Osborne senior quarterback Darnell Hollway said following his team’s 46-0 win in the semifinals last week against Dighton. “We probably knew we were going to have Hanover coming up.
“That’s what we’ve planned on.”
Saturday’s contest will pit two storied eight-man clubs, with Hanover being the cream of the crop.
The Wildcats are making their ninth state title appearance since 2007, and have won the last two Division II state titles. Osborne, since switching to eight-man in 2010, has an 86-17 record, and is making its third appearance in a state title game. The last two have resulted in state championships (Division I titles in 2013 and 2016). Saturday’s title game will feature the division’s highest-scoring team (Osborne) against the state’s third-highest scoring team (Hanover). However, the Wildcats have a far better scoring defense, leading Division II with just 98 points allowed. Fifty-six of those points were allowed against Axtell in two games, a team Hanover defeated 60-14 in last week’s semifinals.
The Wildcats have pitched six shutouts.
The Osborne defense has surrendered 210 points. However, most of that came in the first two weeks of the season. The Bulldogs gave up 76 points in a shootout against surprise contender Hill City, and gave up 52 in a Week 2 loss to defending Eight-Man I champion Hoxie. Since, the Bulldogs have surrendered no more than 22, and have four shutouts. Each of its playoff games has ended early.
“Our alternate goal is to reach our maximum potential as a team,” Osborne coach Brandon Wise said after the semifinal win. “I do not believe we’ve done that yet.”
Hanover features quarterback Daiken Stallbaumer, who has thrown for 1,000-plus yards and running back Carter Bruna as its main threats. Bruna has rushed for 1,000-plus yards. The Wildcats have only played 11 games, but have a forfeit win against Blue Valley Randolph in Week 6.
The Wildcats, on paper, appear to be the favorite.
“We’ll go in this week just like we have — try to get better every day, and hopefully go win us a game,” Wise said.
Osborne counters with brothers Darnell (quarterback) and Darrien (running back) Holloway. Darnell has thrown for 877 yards with 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions, while rushing for 1,457 yards and 28 scores.
Darrien Holloway has 1,446 rushing yards and 31 scores, and is a popular target in the passing game with 225 yards and three scores.
Kade Miller — also a top defensive player for the Bulldogs — has 482 receiving yards and nine scores, and is a compliment in a four-player rushing attack with 215 rushing yards and three scores. Mason Schurr, a freshman, has 822 rushing yards and 11 scores.
“Everyone has been saying Hanover vs Osborne — that’s what we wanted,” Darnell Holloway said. “That’s what we’ve got.”