VICTORIA — In a battle of unbeatens that lived up to its billing, Clifton-Clyde used a big game from Aiden Rudolph and a key fourth-down stop to hand Victoria a rare home loss, powering past the Knights 28-14 on Friday.
Rudolph, the Eagles' junior quarterback, ran for 170 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-sealing 40-yard TD with 1:17 left as Clifton-Clyde moved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in district play.
Victoria, ranked No. 5 in the Best of Kansas Preps Eight-Man Division I rankings, fell to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in District 7 after dropping the hard-hitting, physical battle to the Eagles on a misty night.
"These are the games that you get up for in the summer," Victoria coach Doug Oberle said. "These are the games that you go in the weight room at 5:30 in the morning for. These are the type of games that when you're a sixth, seventh-grader, walking the halls and coming to football games here, you dream of playing in these games.
"Two good football teams. A couple of calls went against us and they executed when they needed to execute. We're in a fight ... and that's all you can ask."
Down eight, Victoria drove down to the Eagles' 21-yard line with under four minutes left, but Clifton Clyde's Tee Koch broke up Grant Schoenrock's fourth-down pass intended for Drayden Karlin.
"Every time they needed a play, they made a play," Oberle said of the Eagles.
The game was the first test of the season for the Knights and Eagles, who had both rolled to blowout wins in each of their first four games.
"We knew this was going to be by far the biggest game of our season," Clifton-Clyde 19th-year head coach Russ Steinbrock said. "One thing with Oberle, you're going to get a very fundamentally sound and very physical football team. We knew when we came down here from the opening kickoff it was going to be a hard-hitting game. It was a very physical game. Third quarter got a little scary for us, but we were able to put some things together in the fourth quarter and come away with a victory so we feel real proud about that."
Clifton-Clyde opened up a 16-point lead early in the third quarter but Victoria's defense came through with some stops and the Knights cut the lead to 22-14 on a 3-yard run from Jayvon Pruitt with 9:41 left in the fourth.
"We made a small adjustment, but at the end of the day, I think it was just more of us executing what we had talked about all week, doing a better job of tackling," Oberle said of the improved defensive effort in the second half. "First half, I didn't think we tackled real well. We stepped up a little bit defensively in the second half."
Victoria had a chance to get the ball back down eight, but with the Eagles facing 4th-and-short at the 40, Rudolph faked a handoff, made a couple of Knights miss and raced to the end zone to put it of reach.
"We had a breakdown, and again, they made the play," Oberle said.
Rudolph ran the ball 30 times. He scored on a 35-yard run in the second quarter and had an 8-yard TD in the third.
"Earlier in the season we had a lot of guys carry the ball," Steinbrock said. "We had a lot of guys get touches, score touchdowns. Once we got into Hill City and Victoria, we knew we were going to lean on Aiden a lot. He was kind of our lone skill guy coming back from last season. He's grown up, he's matured. This was probably by far the most physical game he's played himself."
The Eagles' win snapped Victoria's 12-game home winning streak.
"I think it's huge for us. Absolutely huge," Steinbrock said. "It was a big game. We were coming down here looking at a ranked opponent. Being on the road (against) one of the best Eight-Man coaches, Doug Oberle; his teams are fundamentally sound and physical. We knew the challenge was there. We kind of liked that underdog spot. We came in and I think the kids just rose up to the challenge."
Schoenrock rushed for 90 yards while Pruitt had 60 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. Victoria will play at Wichita County next week.