OTIS — The Otis-Bison High School football team took its first step toward a repeat trip to the Eight-Man Division-II state championship game Friday night.
The defending state runner-up beat Central Prairie League foe St. John, 58-14.
Otis-Bison head coach Travis Starr said that it was a good first test for his offense and its ability to adapt to the opposing defense.
“Yeah, it wasn’t bad,” Starr said. “It was a good way to get out and go. They came in and did some different stuff on defense that we hadn’t seen. Offensively, we had to adjust. I think we played hard and played smart. We didn’t pick our first penalty until the fourth quarter, so I think we did a lot of good things.”
The Cougars struck early, finding success on the ground and capping their opening drive with a 1-yard scramble into the end zone by quarterback Trevor Keller.
St. John stuffed the two-point conversion attempt, keeping the score at 6-0.
The Tigers’ first drive resulted in a three-and-out. However, St. John took advantage of Keller’s early struggles throwing the ball.
With seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, Kinser Crissman picked off a pass from Keller and returns it 35 yards for a touchdown.
“It was up front a little bit,” Starr said. “We’re not getting the right guy. We saw a little different defense. We weren’t communicated like we needed to.
“We weren’t throwing the ball as well as we needed to, and (Keller) will tell you that, too. He has a much better arm, like he demonstrated later on in the game, but he’ll come around.”
Keller calmed down late in the game, finishing the night eight for 13 for 176 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Crissman, the Tigers starting quarterback, traded time with Kade Kinnamon in the backfield. St. John head coach Nick Garcia said that it was part of the game plan.
“We thought we were going to be able to get some good productivity out of that,” Garcia said. “They’ve both been rotating in practice. Kade throws the ball real well, and he sees the field real well.
“Then you go with Kinser, and he does a good job throwing the ball, but he runs a little bit better. He’s got that scat movement where he can go side to side.”
Problem was, St. John’s wide receivers struggled catching the ball as many passes bounced off of their hands. Crissman completed four passes on 18 attempts.
“Really disappointing because as much as we work on throwing the ball and as much skills as we have and I think at one time we were two for 11,” Garcia said. “I always tell the kids that if you can’t catch the ball when it hits you in the hands, you’re going on the line.
“You’ve got to catch the ball. I don’t care if there’s coverage on you. If the ball hits you in the hands, you’ve got to be tough and catch the ball.”
After the two-point conversion was good, the Tigers advanced to their only lead in the game, 8-6.
Cougars running back Dylan Wissman found the end zone on back-to-back four-yard runs in the next two possessions. Wissman led Otis-Bison with 156 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Otis-Bison fullback Patrick Piper joined Wissman and Keller with a rushing touchdown of his own on a three-yard run.
The Cougars scored once more before the half when Keller hit Wissman for a 27-yard catch-and-run.
“That’s a heck of a football team,” Garcia said. “I mean, they are just tough. I talked to our kids about being tough, and I guess we just don’t have the picture yet. We’ve got to be tough. We’ve got to have the right attitude.
“I’ll take full blame because it comes from the top, so I guess no excuses there.”
The Cougars opened the second half the same way it closed the first, with a Keller throw to Wissman. This bomb from 50 yards out resulted in touchdown.
Keller and Piper both ran for touchdowns in the third quarter for the Cougars.
Tigers running back Pat Prescott, who finished the game with 106 yards and one touchdown on the ground, recorded the longest play of the night, running for a 52-yard touchdown.
“He runs hard,” Garcia said. “He gets yards that maybe he really shouldn’t get, but he gets anyway because he’s a tough player. He’s a tough kid. I can’t emphasize enough about that kid. We’re just going to give it to him and give it to him, but it just didn’t go our way. We missed some blocking assignments.”
The Cougars travel to the newly formed Central Plains Oilers this Friday. St. John also take to the road to challenge Fowler.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Otis-Bison 58, St. John 14
St. John 8 0 6 0 — 14
Otis-Bison 12 20 20 6 — 58
Otis-Bison — Keller 1 run (run fail), 9:21.
St. John — Crissman 35 interception (Prescott run), 7:00.
Otis-Bison — Wissman 4 run (pass fail), 4:23.
Otis-Bison — Wissman 4 run (pass fail), 6:41.
Otis-Bison — Piper 3 run (Piper run), 4:27.
Otis-Bison — Wissman 27 pass from Keller (pass fail), 1:44.
Otis-Bison — Wissman 50 pass from Keller (Stejskal pass from Keller), 9:30.
Otis-Bison — Keller 38 run (run fail), 6:33.
St. John — Prescott 52 run (pass fail), 6:12.
Otis-Bison — Piper 10 run (pass fail), 1:56.
Otis-Bison — Pechanec 16 pass from Keller (run failed), 5:57.