Victoria Escapes Hornets Nest, Advances to Sub-State Round
VICTORIA-Carson Werth rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns and Victoria's defense forced two key turnovers as the Knights pulled away from Dighton to win 46-28 Friday evening and advance to the Sub-State final for the second straight season.
The 8-Man Division ll Quarterfinal contest got off to a rough start for the Knights when they fumbled the opening kickoff, allowing the Hornets to begin their first drive in Victoria territory. Dighton faced a fourth and one at the Knights seven-yard line but they were stopped on downs and Victoria needed just three plays to strike first when Werth ripped off a 60-yard touchdown run to give Victoria an 8-0 lead after the two-point conversion.
Dighton however responded and took the lead at the end of the first quarter as a result of two Max Neeley touchdown passes to Daniel Cramer of 63 and 20 yards for a 14-8 advantage. This marked the first time that Victoria trailed at any point since the second half of their game at Sylvan-Lucas on September 24.
Victoria's defense kept the game close. Thaddeus Wohler intercepted two Neeley passes and the Knights were able to pull back in front thanks to a pair of touchdowns. The Knights regained the lead at 16-14 after Wohler capped a seven-play, 49-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Seth Schwien. After Wohler's second interception in as many drives, he connected with Taylor Anderson on a 59-yard pass that gave the Knights a first and goal. Two plays later, Werth ran in from three yards out and Victoria held a 24-14 halftime lead.
After a penalty against Victoria before the second half even began, Dighton was set up with good field position and found the end zone again when Neeley connected with Cramer for the third time from 20 yards out and the two-point conversion cut the Hornet deficit to 24-22. After stopping Victoria on downs and forcing a punt, Dighton began their next drive on their own seven yard line and then disaster struck.
Neeley had a snap go through his legs and Schwien recovered the fumble to give the Knights an instant first and goal. Grant Schoenrock finished the three-play drive with a one-yard run and after three quarters, the Victoria lead stood at 32-22. On their next possession, the Knights chewed time off the clock with a 12-play, 53 yard drive that ended with Werth's third touchdown, this time from six yards out and the Knights held their largest lead to that point at 38-22.
Dighton refused to give up and with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter, Neeley tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game with this reception hauled in by Jaden Coleman from 19 yards out, but the Hornets missed the two-point conversion and trailed 38-28. Then after an onsides kick attempt went out of bounds resulting in a Hornet penalty, Victoria marched 40 yards in six plays and Wohler capped it off with a nine-yard scamper to provide the final margin of 46-28.
Victoria amassed 278 yards on the ground and tallied 403 yards of total offense. Wohler had one of his best passing games of the season completing five of six pass attempts for 125 yards and a touchdown. Dighton (9-2) ran up 347 yards of total offense and Neeley had a good night passing the ball as he threw for 214 yards and four scores. Coming into the game with just under 1,500 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns, Victoria's defense held Neeley to just 87 yards on the ground.
Victoria (10-1), wins their second consecutive Sectional championship and now moves into the Sub-State Final which is the 8-Man Division ll Semifinals next Friday, November 19 at Wheatland-Grinnell. The Thunderhawks earned their spot in the next round with a 46-0 road win at South Barber Friday evening. The game is a re-match of last year's Sectional game won by Victoria 44-26. The Knights lost their 2020 Sub-State Championship game to St. Francis 44-22. The Indians who went on to lose to Hanover in the 8-Man Division ll title game did not qualify for the the 2021 playoffs.
Kickoff in Grainfield will be at 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on KRSL 95.9 FM and online at KRSL.com