Central Prairie League sweeps 8-Man titles

Central Plains' Braedan Crites and Victoria's Brady Dinkel (Everett Royer, ksportsimages.com)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Nov 24, 2014

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In Week 1, Central Plains and Victoria, a pair of ranked preseason teams, met in a high-profile Central Prairie League game in Claflin. Each squad was junior-laden; the Oilers had five seniors, while Victoria had two. Central Plains pulled away early in the fourth quarter for a 42-24 win.

The Knights had problems with their passing game and senior end Noah Dreiling, a three-year starter, never had an offensive touch.

Senior Bryan Dome had a long kickoff return and junior Brady Dinkel collected a pick-six. But Victoria was uncertain who would lead the team.

“At the beginning of the season, we really didn’t know how it was going to work out,” Dome said. “Noah being not as much a talker. I am a talker, but just one guy.”

In August, Central Plains was known more for its offense. It averaged 41.2 points and permitted 26.1 points combined from 2011-13. Junior quarterback Braeden Crites and senior wide receivers Layne Bieberle and Michael Lamatsch each had big games.

Junior Jacob Warnken played his first contest at tailback after transferring from Hoisington. Sophomore Trey Schulte came into the game at guard and started the rest of the fall.

The Oiler defense allowed just 177 yards on 50 plays – a sign of things to come.

“That’s been our motto all year: bend but don’t break,” Central Plains coach Chris Steiner said. “Don’t give up big plays.”

After Week 1 the teams went a combined 24-0 and each captured state championships on Saturday at Newton’s Fischer Field. The CPL became the first eight-man conference to sweep titles since the Twin Valley League with Baileyville B&B and Hanover in 2008.

Behind Dinkel and Dreiling, Victoria passing game became elite, the Knights’ brand-new line (with no returning starters) dominated opponents, the defense/special teams scored nine touchdowns, and the team stayed healthy. Victoria rolled over Argonia-Attica, 52-8, for the Eight-Man, Division II title.

“I tried to tell everybody else to help each other get up, and that’s what happened,” Dome said. ““We all came through at the end of the season.”

Central Plains watched most of the blowout before it defeated Hanover, 42-30, in a game that wasn’t decided until the final 63 seconds. Bieberle, eight-man’s all-time leader in reception touchdowns, capped his career with a terrific performance, and Crites enjoyed another standout contest. Central Plains’ defense ranked No. 1 in Eight-Man, Division I all season and allowed just 10.1 points per outing.

“Victoria stomped Argonia-Attica,” Crites said. “That was fun to watch, good to see them get a ring, too. CPL, you have got to have pride in your league.”

The CPL, also known for its longtime basketball success, has enjoyed plenty of great football in recent years. Ness City and Macksville have won crowns in the last seven falls. La Crosse (twice), Otis-Bison and Quivira Heights all have played in state titles in the last five years.

This season, Ness City went 9-3 and reached sub-state before losing to Central Plains. The Eagles also fell in Week 4 to Victoria. La Crosse finished 9-2.

“That’s huge – CPL having two titles,” Steiner said. “…That says something big about our league. That’s what gets teams here and wins ball games is because we see good competition all year long.”

This marked the first state football title in the fourth year of the consolidation between the tradition-laden Claflin and Quivira Heights programs.

“It’s amazing how many people called me this week or texted me this week or Facebooked my wife this week that were ex- either Claflin or ex-Quivira Heights football players that weren’t very happy about the consolidation,” Steiner said. “You know what, they all sent me a deal this week, saying, ‘Hey, we are behind you. It’s awesome, great to be an Oiler.’ It’s huge for the consolidation.”

Victoria moved to 6-1 all-time in state championships, including eight-man titles in ’04, ’06 and a runner-up showing in ’08.

“They all work hard, and that’s the great thing about being at Victoria,” ninth-year head coach Doug Oberle, also a Claflin graduate, said. “Our kids work their butts off all year long.”

Both teams stayed healthy, especially Victoria, which had massive injury losses the previous two seasons. The Knights emerged as the state favorite after regular season victories against Beloit St.
John’s-Tipton and Thunder Ridge.

Dinkel passed for 1,052 yards and 20 scores and rushed for 976 yards and 19 TDs. Dome and Dreiling became great leaders and put up all-state seasons.

Incredibly, the defensive line allowed 110 rushing yards on 100 carries in the final three playoff games. Victoria permitted 13.8 points per contest.

“Coach (Alex) McMillan has done a great job with our d-line all year,” Oberle said. “We have been working some pass moves, and I think we have gotten better as the year has gone along.”

While Victoria became the favorite, Central Plains always remained ranked, but generally behind Hanover, Osborne and Spearville. Then, the Oilers beat Spearville in the second round of the playoffs. In the state final, Central Plains was a 12-point underdog to Hanover, according to preppowerindex.com.

“I told somebody that if I had 100 dollars for every time I heard, ‘So you think you’ve got a chance?’ No, we are just going for the free food,” Steiner said with a laugh. “I mean, yeah, we think we’ve got a chance. Of course we do.”

But the Oilers – which trailed just one play in the postseason – continually forced Hanover to drive the field. In the final three playoff games, Spearville, Ness City and Hanover all ran more plays than Central Plains. The Oilers forced 10 turnovers in the three wins.

“That’s been our motto all year: bend but don’t break,” Steiner said. “Don’t give up big plays. We have done a really good job. We put six people to the football all the time. That’s our motto everyday is, ‘Put six to the ball at least.’”

While Victoria has enjoyed 13 straight postseason berths, Claflin went 1-8 when the Central Plains seniors were eighth graders. Then, Claflin and QH consolidated. The Oilers have went 9-2, 4-5, 9-2 and now 13-0.

Bieberle capped it with an interception on the season’s final play.

“They are huge,” Steiner said. “I told them they started this. They are Central Plains legacy right now. They were here from the very first word go when it all started. They were the freshmen. Now, look
where they are as seniors, right where they should be. Right where they deserve to be.”

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