NEWTON, Kan. - Osborne featured six seniors on an 18-player roster for 2019. However, quarterback Steele Wolters and running back Darrien Holloway were the squad's only four-year players.
Vaughn Stull transferred in from nearby Natoma before the 2018 season. Evan Garman, Connor Goheen and Damian Rothenberger elected to come out for football this year.
Wolters and Holloway have formed a strong bond. Wolters wanted to complete his career with a state championship alongside Holloway. However, Holloway was ruled out for the year with a foot injury suffered in a Round of 16 playoff game versus Sylvan-Lucas. He even posted a message to Twitter with the news.
Holloway, though, was cleared before the semifinal contest. On Saturday, Wolters and Holloway completed their goal with a 34-26 victory against Axtell in the Eight-Man, Division II state championship game at Newton's Fischer Field.
“I just love playing with him,” Wolters said.
Osborne, with its third head coach in three years, finished 13-0 and moved to 3-1 in state title games in the last seven falls.
“We worked really hard, and now it just finally paid off, so it's a good feeling,” Holloway said.
Coach Steve Tiernan led Osborne to a state title in '13, and then went to Solomon. Last year, he paced the Gorillas to an Eight-Man, Division I runner-up showing, and then came back to Osborne.
“It's really fun,” Holloway said. “He knows what he's doing, and we just trust him.”
Osborne had all of its offensive yards on the ground Saturday. Wolters was the backup quarterback and played guard in 2018. This fall, he started under center and at safety and delivered an exceptional season. Holloway, with more than 4,300 career rushing yards, was a key four-year player. He didn't finish the '16 state championship win versus St. Francis because of injury.
This season, Holloway fought through the foot injury. He finished with 22 carries for 137 yards and two scores. Wolters had 15 rushes for 116 and three touchdowns. Sophomore Mason Schurr delivered 21 carries for 105 yards.
“It was really nice,” Holloway said. “I wanted to stay out there with my brothers tonight. I was in a lot of pain, but I just fought through it, and yeah, we got the job done.”
Wolters finished the season with 32 scores accounted for and picked off five passes. Holloway cleared 1,200 rushing yards.
“Osborne is just Osborne,” Axtell coach Eric Detweiler said. “They ran the ball extremely well. At times, we had a hard time slowing them down, and it showed. They just ground the clock out it seemed like.”
In a game with 25-mile per hour plus winds, Osborne mainly used a two-man front for the first time this fall.
“The wind probably helped us out a little bit, but our guys, they bought into what we were doing, and they did a very good job of running it,” Tiernan said.
The Bulldogs limited Axtell quarterback Quinn Buessing to 13 of 25 passing for 135 yards with two scores against two interceptions.
“We didn't play as well as we normally have, and threw a couple interceptions, a couple fumbles, and they played well, so give them credit,” Detweiler said.
It marked a back-and-forth game that Axtell led 6-0 after the first quarter and 20-14 at halftime when Buessing tossed a 48-yard Hail Mary score on the final play of the first half.
“Kept our heads up, and knew that we'd come back the second half harder and better,” Holloway said.
On the second play of the third quarter, Holloway had a 49-yard scoring run, and the conversion gave Osborne a 22-20 lead. Buessing responded with a one-yard run for a 26-22 advantage. Then, Wolters delivered an excellent zone read for a 37-yard touchdown and 28-26 lead in the third quarter.
“Steele is just really smart,” Holloway said. “He makes the right reads all the time, so that's good.”
In the fourth, Wolters picked Buessing at the Osborne three-yard line. Then, the Bulldogs went on a 14-play drive that ended on a two-yard run from Wolters for the final margin. Schurr picked off Buessing to seal the victory.