OTIS, Kan. Otis-Bison and Kiowa-South Barber yielded a dichotomy of strengths in a matchup of top-five Eight-Man, Division II squads. O-B is a run-heavy team and had the size advantage. The Chieftains are smaller and quicker and use a pass-oriented offense.
Otis-Bison Cougar #17 Anton Foust throws a pass in the second quarter. The Stafford Trojans faced the Otis-Bison Cougars at Cougar Field in Otis, Kansas on September 14, 2018. (Photo: Joey Bahr, www.joeybahr.com)
The variances produced a 36-36 stalemate at the end of the first half. Because of severe weather, the game did not resume. The game was declared a tie at Cougar Field.
South Barber coach Matt Cantrell, in his 22nd season coaching at his alma mater, and 14th year O-B coach Travis Starr had never encountered a finish like Friday’s.
“They are a good team,” Starr said. “I think we are a good team, but didn’t get to settle anything tonight.”
Last year, Moscow and Balko (Okla.) opened the season with a 20-20 tie. Before that, the last Kansas tie was Greensburg and Fowler in a 6-6 game on Sept. 15, 2006.
“I was a little disappointed,” O-B senior quarterback Anton Foust said. “I really wanted the full time, knockdown, drag out, but, I guess we get what we get.”
Like many contests in the central and northwest part of Kansas, the game time shifted due to the weather. The contest started at 5 p.m., two hours before its regularly scheduled time.
Otis-Bison was ranked second in the classification at 4-1, while South Barber was fourth at 5-0 in the Catch It Kansas rankings.
It marked the first contest between the teams since the 2003 playoffs and yielded a rare midseason marquee non-conference and non-district matchup. The game started under clear skies but the temperature continued to drop.
“If it was a district game, we would probably come back and play tomorrow or wait three hours,” Cantrell said. “But hey, non-district game against two great teams, we are all healthy, let’s call it back and go home. I have never done that before, but I think both teams are happy with that, I really do.”
A back-and-forth, long first half featured 680 combined yards, five turnovers and an Otis-Bison kick return touchdown from Foust.
“That first quarter lasted forever,” Starr said.
South Barber finished 0 of 6 on two-point conversions. SB scored six touchdowns, one more than the Cougars. O-B was 3 of 5 on 2-point conversions.
“I like the way they bowed up and played after that,” Starr said. “After you give up a touchdown, your head is probably hanging a little bit, but we made some stops when we needed to.”
“That was a big thing for us,” Cantrell added. “I could not figure out how to get that thing in the end zone.”
The teams nearly completed their halftime when a 30-minute lightning delay was called at 6:45 p.m.
The squads cleared the field and retreated to the school and locker rooms. In the interim, dark clouds continued to form and heavy rains started. The game was officially called just shy of 7:20 p.m.
“Unfortunate that we couldn’t finish that game,” South Barber junior quarterback Trevor Rooks said.
Otis-Bison is control of District 8, while South Barber leads District 7. Those two teams and Osborne have led the pack in the western half of the classification. Friday could be the first of two meetings between O-B and SB with the second one in the playoffs.
“I said, ‘Hopefully we get to meet again, we will finish it later,’” Cantrell said.
Foust and Rooks are multi-year starters and two of eight-man’s best signal callers. Foust completed 5 of 9 passes for 74 yards with a touchdown.
“Coach Starr and I felt like there were two great quarterbacks out there tonight,” Cantrell said.
Foust is challenging to tackle at 6-2, 195 pounds and is bigger than all but three Chieftains. He rushed 13 times for 236 yards and scoring runs of 29, 65 and 65 yards. He recorded three kickoff returns for 92 yards.
“I don’t think the kids realized – even though I told them – how strong he is,” Cantrell said. “It takes more than one guy. … Calvary’s got to come, and try to bring him down. Yeah, he is fantastic player.”
Overall, O-B slightly outgained South Barber by 12 yards but committed one more turnover. Rooks completed 15 of 21 passes for 174 yards and two scores against one interception. He rushed 12 times for 89 yards and three scores.
“I thought we’d have to throw the ball to move the ball,” Cantrell said. “We started getting to them a little bit on the run, and I was proud of that. Our defense was a little porous today.”
O-B opened the contest with a 29-yard run by Foust and an 8-0 lead. South Barber quickly countered with a 38-yard scoring run from Rooks to cut the deficit to 8-6.
After a Cougar fumble, Rooks, in the spread offense, found senior running Neal Gugelmeyer over O-B senior defensive back Maitland Wiltse for a 35-yard touchdown and a 12-8 lead.
“We haven’t played a pass heavy team in a long time, so this is a really good matchup for us,” Foust said.
At 6-foot, Gugelmeyer is four inches shorter than Wiltse, though had the speed advantage. He had seven catches for 55 yards, while Wiltse picked off a pass and had a fumble recovery.
“We had a lot more size, but I would say they have a little bit more skill in the backfield just with their quarterback and running back,” O-B senior lineman Luke Higgason said.
Then, Foust raced down the left sideline for a 70-yard kickoff return for a score. It marked his third kickoff return for a touchdown this season and the team’s fifth special teams score. O-B took a 16-12 lead with 5:44 left in the first quarter.
“I just try to read the biggest hole, and then run as fast as I can,” Foust said of the returns.
South Barber scored on the next possession on a 2-yard run from Rooks and an 18-16 lead. Sophomore Emilio Perez, a surprise player this season, has led SB in receptions. He had five catches for a team-best 93 yards, including a 28-yard catch on the drive.
“Teams underestimate him, because he is only a sophomore,” Rooks said. “But I think once we get him out there, he runs great routes and works really hard in practice. Hit the weight room hard, and he has gotten a lot bigger.”
Later in the quarter, Foust raced 65 yards for a touchdown. SB then scored when Rooks had a one-yard run on a drive that had a 38-yard Perez reception.
Next, the Cougars struck back on a 65-yard run from Foust on their first play.
“Hopefully we meet up with them later in the season, and we’ve got to figure out a way to get him stopped at the line before he can make his cuts and use his speed,” Rooks said.
O-B led 28-24 after the first quarter. Foust continually found a hole on the left side, mainly from blocking by the 220-pound Higgason and 185-pound junior Seth Hoopingarner.
“Getting inside and up on the defensive ends on that hole really opens the running lane,” Higgason said.
The teams exchanged turnovers before junior Gage Cantrell had a five-yard TD run. SB led 30-28 with 5:28 left in the first half.
O-B again scored on the first play of the drive, this time with a 55-yard pass from Foust to Hoopingarner. The TD bumped the lead to 36-30.
With 44 seconds left in the first half, Rooks found Cantrell for a 20-yard scoring reception.
SB’s two-point run failed, and the game was tied at 36. O-B drove to the Chieftain 29-yard line but had three straight incompletions to end the half – and game.
Near the end of the 30-minute delay, Starr noticed the lightning and called over to Otis-Bison principal Mark Goodheart. The rains came followed, which was going to necessitate a long break.
“It can be a long night, and they have got a long drive home,” Starr said. “You want to finish it for a pride factor, but really there’s not a whole lot on the line right now, and you never know, could see them again later on down the road, too.”