Knights fend off Wheatland-Grinnell

Rick Peterson Jr.
Victoria quarterback Grant Schoenrock carries the ball in Friday's Eight-Man Division II quarterfinal against Wheatland-Grinnell.

GRAINFIELD — Big games on the ground from the 1-2 punch of Jayvon Pruitt and Grant Schoenrock helped Victoria offset miscues and advance to the Eight-Man Division II state semifinals

The Knights overcame three turnovers and early penalties to put away Wheatland-Grinnell late, capturing a 44-26 win in Friday’s state quarterfinal.

Victoria improved to 11-0 and advanced into the state semifinals for the first time since 2015, when the Knights won their second straight state title.

Pruitt ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries while Schoenrock finished with 145 yards and three touchdowns on 20 attempts.

“First half, Jayvon, it was his time,” Victoria coach Doug Oberle said. “They were giving us the dive, the veer. They shut that down, and then Grant knows that, ‘OK, now they’ve stopped him, this is what I am going to do.’ And they both know that they’re both going to be successful if the other one’s successful. They communicate well and are good leaders for us.”

The Knights will play the winner of Saturday afternoon’s game between St. Francis and Caldwell. If St. Francis wins, the Knights will be at home for the semis. A Caldwell win would send VIctoria on the road.

Oberle will look for a cleaner performance next week, but credited his team for bouncing back from the miscues, including three fumbles.

“I didn’t feel like it was our best night, but then you’ve got to give Wheatland-Grinnell a lot of credit for us not playing well or looking good,” Oberle said. “At the same time, adversity kept creeping in on us and we fought it off and found a way to get it done. This time of year, you just want to get the W and move on.”

“It wasn’t a clean game, we need to work on that,” said Schoenrock, the Knights’ junior quarterback, “and we’re going to work on it this next week.”

Pruitt, a senior running back, got the Knights started with a 17-yard touchdown run and scored the two-point conversion for the only points of the first quarter.

Penalties and a fumble inside Thunderhawk territory prevented the Knights from extending their lead early, but Schoenrock scored on a 16-yard run and ran in the two-point try to put the Knights up 16-0.

Wheatland-Grinnell’s Isaac Mendez broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown run but Victoria answered with Schoenrock’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Carson Werth and Pruitt got the two-point try to make it 24-6 heading into halftime.

“We’ve been a second half team all year,” coach Jeese Vincent said. “For whatever reason we could never start, and that was kind of the case again tonight. And against teams that are this good, you just can’t start late. We knew each week that the teams are going to get better and better and that’s what happened here.”

Thunderhawks quarterback Trey Vincent hit Ryan Heier for a 25-yard score early in the third quarter, and after a 10-yard touchdown run by Pruitt, Vincent and Heier connected again for a 42-yard score, bringing Wheatland-Grinnell within 10.

Schoenrock restored a 16-point lead with a 3-yard run, but the Thunderhawks crept back into the game after Mendez delivered a 45-yard scoop and score on a Knights’ fumble.

Schoenrock helped put the game away with a 20-yard touchdown run before picking off a pass to seal it.

Vincent went 14 of 26 for 135 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while Mendez finished with 138 yards.

The Thunderhawks finished with an 8-3 record.

VIncent praised his five-player senior class of Trevor Zarybnicky, Luke Bixenman, Johnny Phillips, Wendell Mong and Elliot Godek.

“There has not been a football culture here,” Vincent said. “It just hasn’t been a football town. To build two back-to-back seasons to get into the playoffs this way, that’s what we’re after.

“I cant say enough about by assistant coaches and the work they do to prep for this. We’re trying to get things turned around this year and make it a winning program. We’ve still got a ways to go obviously.”