Knights keep winning on tradition and toughness

Noah Dreiling hauls in a TD catch against Thunder Ridge (Everett Royer,
By: Conor Nicholl for
Oct 21, 2014

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Victoria’s 58-34 home victory last Friday against Thunder Ridge served as microcosm for the Knight program and their hallmarks of tradition and toughness.

Before the game started, fans made their way through two entrances on the east and west side of the school.

The west side has a big maroon sign next to the road that lists Victoria’s five state championships in 1981, ’85, ’88, ’04 and ’06, the last two coming in the eight-man ranks. In addition, the Knights have a runner-up showing in ’08. It’s a constant reminder of Victoria’s success and tradition.

On the field, Victoria’s leader is senior running back/linebacker/all-state returner Bryan Dome. His dad played on the ’81 state team and gives his son static because he doesn’t have a ring yet. Bryan’s brother-in-law is Brenton Hoffman, a player on the ’06 and ’08 teams.

Junior fullback Lane Kisner and freshman Collin Kisner’s older sister, Taylor, is arguably the best track athlete in Knight annals. Their family has deep Victoria roots.

“We are just trying to carry on tradition,” Lane said. “Be like some great teams in the past.”

Longtime Victoria educator Dave Ottley was on the sideline with his family in the stands. All three of his boys, Jordan, Brett and Sam, were all-state for the Knights in the last eight years.

High school principal Stu Moeckel, a Knight graduate and former football assistant, patrolled the sidelines, too. Among others, junior center Eric McAlonan has family ties to Victoria. The stands were full of former Knight players from past and present.

Victoria was significantly smaller than Thunder Ridge up front, around 30 to 40 pounds per man, but never trailed and was tied only at 0-0 and 8-8. The line played well and multiple skill players had big games, including another fine performance from junior quarterback Brady Dinkel, who has continually improved through the year.

“Just come out with heart every game, and play our best and just keep going,” McAlonan said.

Coupled with a 68-56 victory against Beloit St. John’s-Tipton last week, Victoria has defeated back-to-back top-five teams and risen to No. 2 in Eight-Man, Division II. The Knights have clinched District 7 with two weeks to go after Natoma forfeited this week’s game because of low numbers. It marks Victoria’s 13th straight playoff appearance, continuing the longest eight-man streak in Kansas.

Coach Doug Oberle, a Claflin graduate who played under legendary coach Gregg Webb, was a Victoria assistant for three years under Chris Windholz. He won the ’06 title in his first year as head coach. Oberle is a Rule 10 coach and lives in Victoria with his wife and two children.

He works in Hays and runs the Knight weight room. Dome has called Oberle “our second dad.” He has continued the tradition of winning and toughness, and continually preaches the axiom of “getting better each and every week.”

“That’s what we strive to do and to be,” Oberle said. “We are undersized so much this year that we’ve just got to be that much more tougher, and we have got to run to the football, and we’ve got to play well as a team. I hope that’s the team that we are putting on the field.”

Most small schools who have tremendous football success produce big seasons in other sports (Meade, La Crosse, Sharon Springs-Wallace County, and Beloit St. John’s-Tipton are among those with basketball and/or track success). That’s not the case in Victoria.

The basketball team is consistently around .500, though it did make a surprising Final Four run in 2011. The Knight girls have experienced far more track success than the boys in recent seasons. Victoria/Russell formed a co-op the last two years in baseball and Dinkel was one of the best players on a third-place team in Class 4A, II last spring. More than anything, football is first in Victoria.

The Knights have produced against brutal schedules and multiple injuries to key players the last several years. Since ’06, Victoria’s strength of schedule has been 5, 13, 7,7, 41, 2, 1, 23 and 2 this fall, according to

Last year, three senior starters missed most or virtually all of the season. In 2012, all-state tailback Dalton Dreiling was hurt nearly all of fall. Victoria has just 19 players this season.

“We have fought that battle for the last few years, and you’ve just got to come to play every night,” Oberle said.

As well, the Knights don’t have a weighlifting curriculum during the school day, a rarity. Generally, the players come in at 6:30 in the morning and lift for 45-55 minutes.

“I like it for the mere fact that we have to get up early, we have to come in, we have to do this on our time,” Oberle said. “We kind of use that as motivation for the guys."

Victoria finished second in state powerlifting in 2007 and then took some years off from meets before a runner-up finish in ’13 and a state championship last spring. Parker Riedel and Lane Kisner both won state crowns, running back Joe Dortland was second and Dinkel was third. After Friday’s victory, Dome quickly brought the powerlifting success as a reason for the victory.

“I thought we could wear them down, it was the other way around,” Thunder Ridge coach Jerry Voorhees said.

With Natoma’s forfeit, Victoria moved to 79-20 under Oberle.

Dinkel finished 7 of 8 for 103 yards and two scores and rushed 10 times for 56 yards and a TD. Since  ’08, Dinkel is the only Knight quarterback to start more than half of his team’s games in back-to-back years.

Before him, Victoria went Jordan Ottley, Garrett Dreiling, Cody Scheck, Corey Dinkel and Sam Ottley before Dinkel took over in Week 4 of last season following an Ottley injury.

“It’s definitely coming along,” Oberle said. “I probably yell at him more than anybody, I need to watch that, but Brady has done a good job for us. Each and every game this year, he has gotten better. Just very proud of him, and he is a competitor and he wants to have the ball in his hands.”

Dinkel went 4 of 13 for 22 yards in a Week 1 loss to Central Plains, but has eclipsed 100 passing yards in four of the last five games.

“Lately, we have just been working on stuff in practice, getting his throw down, running the routes at 100 percent,” Dome said. “We thought maybe at the beginning of the year, we weren’t running routes at 100 percent, so that maybe did something. But now in practice, we just know go hard everyday, because you know you might not never have another opportunity.”

After the win, Victoria’s locker room was loud with celebratory yells and music. Kisner led all players with 123 rushing yards despite a broken right hand so severe he has to shake hands with his left hand. The pain was worth it for Kisner, who has helped carry on the tradition and toughness and put the 2014 squad back into the playoffs.

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