Central Plains, Otis-Bison to battle for CPL supremacy

Alex Barton runs for a TD in Central Plains' 48-22 win over Victoria. (Everett Royer, KSportsImages)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Sep 15, 2016

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Central Plains and Otis-Bison have similar roster construction. Both enjoy one well-known, electrifying player with the Oilers’ junior wide receiver/defensive back Alex Barton and Otis-Bison’s senior running back/returner Brad Lightfoot.

As well, the teams have a steady player at quarterback, veteran offensive lines and multiple players who have already seen time at many positions. In addition, both squads have had several athletes return after missing all of 2015 because of injury and contribute in key roles.

The makeup could yield a return to the close games of the past between the Central Prairie League foes located less than an hour away on Highway K4 near Great Bend. The teams have not matched up since 2013 when Central Plains shut out Otis-Bison, 40-0. In ’11-12, the Cougars won by a combined score of 90-20.

Prior to 2011, Claflin and Quivira Heights had not yet consolidated to form Central Plains. From 2004-10, Claflin and Quivira Heights went a combined 7-4 versus Otis-Bison. However, no game was closer than 26 points. This marks one of the first times the Oilers and Cougars match up when both teams are considered near the top of their respective classes.

Host Otis-Bison is ranked No. 2 in Eight-Man, Division II and is 10-2 in its last 12 contests. The Oilers are receiving consideration in Division I and stand at 24-2 in its last 26 games. Both teams are undefeated in 2016.

“There’s been some legacy games out there between these two teams honestly, through history, whether it was Claflin or Quivira Heights,” Central Plains coach Chris Steiner, a Claflin graduate, said. “It is neat to be back in a position where both teams are competitive, and hopefully we can be competitive with them and give them one of those neat games.”

Otis-Bison dealt with some injury and illness in last Friday’s 66-26 victory against Ellinwood. Lightfoot left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He was cleared Wednesday. Senior lineman Bryce Maneth fought some knee problems.

Senior quarterback Kade Urban had severe stomach problems, though played well in the win. All three should be healthy for Friday. Speedy junior running back Blake Bahr stepped in with seven carries for 202 yards and four scores in Week 2.

“There are always some pretty decent teams in the league,” Starr said. “You are always going to be going through something. When you are trying to get ready for the upcoming districts, it’s nice to have a team like Central Plains. … Someone that can really test you and make you see where your weaknesses are. They’ve got athletes everywhere.”

Otis-Bison returned all three of its linemen with Maneth (6-foot-2, 255), junior Landon Hoopingarner (5-10, 285) and sophomore Luke Higgason (6-1, 215). Central Plains counters with senior guard Trey Schulte, a three-year starter at 6-0, 224 pounds. Schulte didn’t play in last week’s 54-8 victory over Ness City, but will play Friday.

Senior James Radenburg (5-11, 248) is a returning center. Junior guard Phillip Donecker has started in the double tight-end formation, while sophomore Brett Liebl has played guard when the Oilers go to the spread formation.

“It’s going to be won or lost up front,” Steiner said. “It’s going to be who can get it done on the o-line and d-line is I think who is going to have the upper hand in the ball game, quite honestly. Because there is phenomenal linebackers and d-backs and skill players on the offensive side of the ball on both sides.”

Starr has emphasized the fourth quarter throughout the offseason, fall camp and this week. Last season, the Cougars opened 8-0 and then lost, 68-22, to Victoria and 65-20 at Wallace County in the first round of the playoffs. In both games, Otis-Bison battled back from deficits but couldn’t stay with the opponent all game.

“It will be a nice test not only the first possession of the game, but to see where we are at the fourth quarter of the game and see if one team wears on the other team a little bit,” Starr said. “We have been talking about that all week: In the fourth quarter, what are you going to have left in the tank? You’ve got to play the last half like you did the first half. The end of the ballgame in the second half is what I am going to be looking forward to.”

For the Oilers, sophomore Devin Ryan stepped in at quarterback after he was the junior varsity signal caller last season. Sophomore Alex Hickel and Ryan battled for the job throughout fall camp.

Hickel and Liebl missed all of 2015 with injury. Then, Hickel and senior Bryce Miller led the team in rushing in the season-opening win at Victoria. Liebl has played both defensive end positions, both linebacker spots, guard, end and receiver.

The backfield doesn’t have a true lead rusher, but Hickel, Miller, junior fullback Dalton Beck, junior Anthony Oberle and junior Jacob Mcatee all have seen consistent time.

Oberle, the nephew of Victoria coach Doug Oberle, scored three touchdowns in the 48-22 win versus the Knights. Overall, Steiner said the Oilers have stronger depth than last year’s 9-2 squad, an area that surprised him.

“I’ve got a whole bunch of really good guys that I really like a lot, and we are kind of just going with whoever seems to be performing that night,” Steiner said of the backfield. “We are giving them all a little bit of a shot, because they all have different strengths and different weaknesses and a different style of running. Against certain teams, one style is more effective than the other.”

Barton, whom Steiner labeled a “phenomenal athlete,” spent all summer working with Jake Sharp and playing 7-on-7. He caught three scores versus Ness City and had nine catches for 262 yards and two touchdowns against Victoria.

“He is one of a kind out there,” Starr said.

For Otis-Bison, the Cougars have greatly improved their passing game with Urban and sophomore Anton Foust, another multi-dimensional player who also starts at outside linebacker.  Foust has four catches for 78 yards and a score.

“I could move Anton around with many different roles,” Starr said.

Senior Trevor Trapp had knee issues last year and didn’t play. Starr said Trapp “has been really good” and stepped in as a starting defensive back. Trapp has the team’s lone interception.

“He’s has come up and hit, done well in coverage, done well the other day,” Starr said. “He has been a nice addition.”

Senior Tristen Dean, who didn’t play last season, has provided depth at wide receiver and defensive back. Senior lineman Cody Kaler has always had a role in his career. Starr said Kaler has worked hard in the weight room and continued to improve. Kaler has 10 tackles, Dean has eight. Kaler had 12 tackles in his career entering ’16.

Junior Daniel Scott is 145 pounds but has stood out as a utility player. He has played wingback and then guard last week with Maneth out. On defense, Scott has played cornerback, linebacker when Lightfoot was out, and has moved to defensive line because of his speed and athleticism.

"If you are not noticing a guard, then obviously they are doing some good things," Starr said. "I didn't have to look over there any."


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