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Engel battles through injury for Victoria

The Knights topped Norwich in the 8M-II playoffs Thursday
Victoria defeated Norwich 54-6, Thursday, October 29, 2020.  (Photo: Everett Royer,...
Victoria defeated Norwich 54-6, Thursday, October 29, 2020. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)(Everett J Royer)
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 10:44 PM CDT
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VICTORIA , Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - On the game’s third play, Victoria center Trenton Engel blocked a Norwich defender. He was tripped up, fell and someone landed on the side of his leg. Engel injured his right ankle.

Engel had a noticeable limp, and Knight coach Doug Oberle tried to pull the senior early in the contest. However, Engel stayed in and delivered a gritty effort on the Knights' line.

Engel’s snapping paved the way for a 54-6 Knight home win against Norwich in an Eight-Man, Division II Week 9 bracket game Thursday. Victoria was thin at center; the backup was sick and wasn’t available. Sophomore Jarron Schmidt, the third stringer, just returned after he missed the last couple weeks. Afterward, Engel labeled the ankle “a little bit swollen.”

“Hurt a little bit,” Engel said. “But I kind of wanted to play, because obviously I am a senior, and it (stinks) to stand on the sideline, and miss playing time, so I just try to fight back and stay in there and help the team win.”

The game was called at halftime by the 45-point mercy rule. As time expired, Knight junior quarterback Grant Schoenrock threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to freshman Seth Schwien in the end zone corner, who stayed inbounds.

“When walked from the huddle a couple of times up to the ball, I didn’t know if he was going to make it,” Victoria coach Doug Oberle said of Engel. “I told him afterwards, he literally looked like an 86-year-old man. But he’s a senior. I did not want to take that away from him if he could continue to do his job, and he did. He bared down. Very proud of Trenton. Trenton’s a great kid. Works his tail off each and everyday.”

Victoria, ranked No. 3 in the classification and the District 5 champions, improved to 9-0. The Knights have not lost a postseason home game since 2011. Victoria plays in the Round of 16 next Friday.

“I just hope we can rehab him,” Oberle said. “I am kind of glad that it’s a Thursday night game. We get an extra day for him, but we’ve got to get him rehabbed.”

Norwich finished 4-5, though freshman quarterback Tray Schroeder had an impressive year with around 1,500 yards of total offense. Victoria had its usual big performances from its well-known backfield triumvirate of Schoenrock, senior running back Jayvon Pruitt and sophomore Carson Werth.

“They are just a well-coached football team,” coach Mike Wilmott said. “And they do the little things right, and better than most people they play. They take us out of what we wanted to do, and those guys, they are good football players.”

Schoenrock finished 5 of 8 passing for 87 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed 11 times for 154 yards and two TDs. Pruitt, with a Bethel College offer, had 84 offensive yards and a score.

Werth, known for his abandon, delivered 10 carries for 97 yards and a pair of scores.

“Carson Werth is 134 pounds of fury,” Oberle said.

He also hauled in two catches for 26 yards, led by 5.5 tackles, posted a pass breakup and returned a pair of punts for 42 yards. Werth moved to corner for the first time after he’s been linebacker all year.

“Grant and Jayvon are phenomenal players, but it’s important to have everyone do a good job, so that’s great that he’s been stepping up for us,” Engel said.

Engel and Pruitt are part of a five-player senior class that has continued the tradition under Doug Oberle, 130-33 in his 15th year as head coach. Lucas Klein, end/linebacker Drayden Karlin and Malachi Wilhelm are seniors. Four of the five are returning starters.

“Just Victoria pride, I think that’s its part of the community,” Engel said. “And just the tradition of the football program, Coach Oberle’s obviously a great coach, and he helps inspire us …and of course the state championships that they’ve won in the past have all kind of helped inspire us and sort of build a fire in all of us, so that we can push to be the best that we can be.”

Engel’s brother, Wyatt, played on the state title squads in ’14-15. He played center throughout high school.

“He was definitely a really good football player, and I definitely learned a lot from him,” Engel said.

Trenton had been at tight end his freshman and sophomore year and served at guard as a junior. He started the fall at guard, though Oberle elected to try him at center to see how well he could snap. Schoenrock liked how Engel snapped, and Victoria put him at center.

“I did start out a little bit rough to be honest, but honestly practice was a big part of it,” Engel said. “Just trying to get my steps right and moving all in one motion, just making sure I fire off while I am snapping at the same time.”

Victoria returned all but two players, both starting linemen with Kirk Huser and Josh Schulte, from a 7-3 squad that averaged 36.8 points per game. This fall, the Knights produced top-5 offense in the regular season and have tallied 50.2 points a contest.

On Thursday, Pruitt fumbled on the game’s third play when Engel also suffered injury. On the next series, Victoria kept Engel off the field, which Oberle called “just rough.”

The Knights had Schwien at center, along with sophomore Tanis Brungardt and junior Nate Windholz on the line. As well, Windholz had missed nearly three full games with a high ankle sprain. He had never played linebacker until Thursday and finished with two sacks. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Schwien had not played center since seventh grade.

“Seth’s a young man – I always kind of liken him right now to a young man in a grown man’s body,” Oberle said. “He’s still learning stuff. He works hard.”

Schmidt took over for Engel at nose guard, a position he hadn’t played much. Junior Grant Hammerschmidt was at nose a little. The Knights went 70 yards in eight plays and scored on a one-yard run from Werth. On the next possession, Werth returned a punt 27 yards to the Norwich 27.

“I just look for a hole and shoot it,” Werth said. “Get what I can get. Try to take it to the house.”

He followed with a 23-yard TD run down the sideline.

“I wait for my guys to block, and see how they do, and I just do my job,” Werth said. “Try to get in.”

Then, Schwien picked up fumble at the Knight 30 and returned to the Norwich 10. Schoenrock scored from four yards out.

Right before the end of the first quarter, Oberle told Engel he was pulled. However, Oberle called his first offensive play of the series, and Engel was back on the field.

“I realized they didn’t have anyone else at center,” Engel said. “I guess that coach probably didn’t tell our backup that he had to be in, so I just ran back out there, and gave it my best.”

Pruitt then tacked on a two-yard TD run for a 28-0 lead after the first quarter.

Throughout the game, Engel continued to hobble back and forth, but kept snapping solidly. In the second half, Schoenrock scored from nine yards out and threw a 45-yard TD pass to Pruitt. He tossed TDs of five and 11 yards for Schwien.

“Better give him credit for that,” Werth said of Engel. “I know I couldn’t do that.”

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