Aug. 26—OSKALOOSA — Oskaloosa entered a steamy Friday night season-opener at Statesmen Community Stadium hoping to exorcise some demons in a couple of ways. Not only were they playing host to the Washington Demons, but they were hoping to erase a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season. Despite sporting a young group this season, the Indians battled the sauna-like conditions and were able to come away with a 28-14 victory over Washington.
Oskaloosa has 10 seniors on the team this season and relied on several big contributions from their sophomore class to come through with several of them making their varsity football debuts.
"There's some guys that got their first varsity touches tonight and I was very impressed," Oskaloosa head coach Brett Doud said. "Some of the sophomores really stepped up. Kaiden Parker is one that stands out to me and Max Roach made some big plays there. Kayne Boender coming out at quarterback, he didn't look like a sophomore. He made a lot of great plays and some smart decisions where he could have forced the ball downfield and decided to take a sack and and let our defense work. I was very proud of a lot of the sophomores from last week's scrimmage to to this week."
That group would be challenged early as penalties plagued several parts of the game including killing a couple of scoring opportunities for both sides early as the two teams combined for 16 penalties totaling for 130 yards.
The first score came late in the first quarter with Washington getting the ball after Boender's pass was picked off by Washington's Mason Morgan. The Demons would start deep in Osky territory at their 25 yard line but the Indians would back up Washington into a fourth and 17 on the 21 yard line. But it was Morgan striking again as he found some open grass in the secondary and was hit by quarterback Logan McDole for the opening touchdown with his 21-yard reception. A missed extra point made it 6-0 in favor of Washington after the first quarter.
Doud would challenge is young team to respond and respond they did. Offensively, Boender would lead an six-play, 65 yard drive that would end with a rollout pass to big fullback Wyatt Grubb who would bulldoze his way into the end zone for a 13-yard TD. Osky would also see their PAT fail and the score would be tied at 6-6 early in the second quarter.
Osky would keep the momentum going by forcing a three and out before getting after the punt and eventually blocking it with three guys breaking through the line. That set up a prime opportunity for another Osky touchdown at the Demons' 15 yard line but it would quickly evaporate with sophomore running back AJ Walker fumbling and turning it back over to Washington.
The Indian defense would force another Washington punt and this time the Indians would start at their own 48. Osky would continue to feed their beast as Boender found Grubb up the seam for a 37 yard gain. Boender would then roll out and find Grubb again who would break two more tackles on his way to rumbling into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night to make it 12-6 in favor of Osky.
"Grubbs is a beast," Doud said. "He's one of our dudes and is a great kid and a great leader. We had a lot of leadership up front and our O-line was dialed in. Nolan Scott leading the way as a captain and as our center and we couldn't have got it done unless our bigs got it done."
Washington tried to a touchdown in just before halftime as they were able to drive it down to the Indian three yard line with two seconds left. The Demons would elect to try to go for the touchdown with enough time for one play but McDole would try to role out right only to get tripped up by the turf monster to end the half with Oskaloosa leading 12-6.
Both team's first possessions of the second half ended in punts before Oskaloosa would strike again with a big fourth down conversion eventually leading to Walker finding space off the right tackle before waltzing in for a 12-yard touchdown to extend the Indian lead to 19-6.
Special teams had an up and down night for Osky but one of the ups came later in the third when sophomore kicker Linus Morrison would drill a 38-yard field goal to boost the lead to 22-6 entering the fourth quarter.
Both teams struggled with cramping in the second half but continued to battle with both sides seeing their offenses stall in the fourth quarter. Washington eventually put together a good drive late in the game marching 67 yards down the field before scoring and converting the two-point conversion to all of a sudden make it a one-score game at 22-14 with 1:33 left and an onside kick to come.
The onside kick found the soft hands of Grubb who dived on it to secure it for the Indians. Walker would get the handoff and find running room as he nearly broke off a long touchdown run before being hauled down at the three yard line. Walker ended up getting rewarded for his effort as he finished things off with a three-yard rushing touchdown to put things on ice at 28-14. Walker bounced back nicely from his first half fumble and ended up with 133 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns while adding two catches for 20 yards.
"I was super impressed," Doud said of Walker. "I told AJ Walker he was a bright spot in the scrimmage last week. I was like 'guys, that's our tailback.' Dom Piersel was really good too, but we've got to keep them healthy. AJ ran really hard, he's a strong kid and the next play mentality stuff. He fumbled and came off the field and I said get over it. I said I'm not mad at you, get over it. You've got to keep running the ball and it's a team effort. That was a huge run at the very end of the game and he made some plays that were great after the first and second contact and he goes and gets 10 yards after that. It makes life a lot easier on the offense that's for sure."
The clocks finally struck zero and Oskaloosa was able to come away with the win to go to 1-0 on the season while snapping their seven-game skid from last year.
They did it behind a determined group of seniors and impressive collection of sophomore talent. Boender finished 13-of-21 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his first varsity start. Walker led the rushing attack with his 133 yards and two TDs while Grubb led Osky receivers with four catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
The Oskaloosa defense had their moments with great pressure against the Washington passing game leading to three sacks and 11 tackles for loss. The secondary also flashed some ability with six pass break-ups but also a couple of dropped picks including two that had very good chances of potentially being pick-sixes. That being said, it was a good showing and something to build off of for the young unit.
"I was very happy with our defense," Doud said. "We kind of bent a little early and they scored on us, but it's like I said, it's a Friday night and the game is long. I said to our offense we've got to respond and then our defense responded. I mean they shut them down for most of the rest of the game. We got a little fatigue there at the end of the game and that's not an excuse, we've got to rise up. We talked about rise up or lay down and I felt like we laid down a little bit there. They popped off a few big plays and we gave them a chance. We've got to find out how to close the game a little bit better there. But again, that's just growing pains."
This win was a breath of fresh air for the Osky football program as Doud thinks he has a team that is together and willing to grow and improve moving forward.
"They're committed and it's got to be a 'we' feel and not a 'me' feel and it wasn't last year," Doud said. "Building the culture where we want it, It's always got to be about us and what's best for our team. Victories do help that, I'm not going to lie. It was really good for us to come out here and get that first one."
It's a quick turnaround for Oskaloosa (1-0) as they have to prepare for a rare Thursday night matchup at Des Moines Hoover (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Although football tends to be a creature of habit, Doud is willing to change things on the fly and is confident his team will be ready to get after it again next week.
"We had to change our practices last week where we had to go later and start at 5:40," Doud said. "I'm almost ready to move our practice times to that because the kids leave school and they come back and they're refreshed and all of a sudden our practices were a lot better. It's kind of crazy how that works so I think we're going to be open-minded. We're going to go about this Saturday and that shouldn't effect us. We're going to dial it in and we'll be ready to go Thursday night just as we would in a normal week."
Oskaloosa 28, Washington 14
WASH 6 0 0 8
OSKY 0 12 10 6
WASH — McDole pass to Morgan for 21-yard TD. PAT is no good (0-6, 0:35)
OSKY — Boender pass to Grubb for 12-yard TD. PAT is no good (6-6, 10:09)
OSKY — Boender pass to Grubb for 15-yard TD. PAT is no good (12-6, 4:58)
OSKY — Walker 12-yard rushing TD. PAT is good (19-6, 6:47)
OSKY — Morrison 38-yard field goal is good (22-6, 1:51)
WASH — Williams 12-yard rushing TD. 2PC is good (22-14, 1:33)
OSKY — Walker 3-yard rushing TD. PAT is no good (28-14, 0:23
Passing — Boender 13/21 150 yards 2 TD 1 INT
Rushing — Walker 13-133 2 TD, Grubb 3-38, Boender 8-4, Baker 1-(-1)
Receiving — Grubb 4-78 2 TD, Roach 4-23, Walker 2-20, Lewis 2-16, Baker 1-13
Top three tackles — Parks 8, Jordan 7, Kool 7
Sacks — Piersel 1.5, Jordan 0.5, Kool 0.5, Toubekis 0.5
Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.