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Regular season finale could be play-in game

October 21, 2011
Ottumwa High School

Regular season finale could be play-in game

OTTUMWA — Pinned down — backs against the wall. Now would be a good time to bust out and break away.

Bulldogs — you’ve got your chance.

The Ottumwa football team hasn’t gotten many breaks this fall. That can all change tonight.

In what should amount to a playoff elimination game – the Bulldogs travel to Drake Stadium to take on the Des Moines Roosevelt Roughriders in the regular season finale.

Win and Ottumwa might rocket itself into the Class 4A playoffs, with top-ranked West Des Moines Valley (8-0) as the likely opponent. The Tigers clawed Ottumwa in the second game of the season by a score of 42-7.

Ottumwa head coach Zach Wigle has seen his squad careen to a 2-6 mark this fall — Ottumwa’s first losing season in 21 years.

Roosevelt sits at 3-6 and hasn’t qualified for the postseason in 15 years. Roosevelt has played in just two playoff games – 1984 and 1996.

Think the Roughriders will be geared up for this CIML Metro matchup?

“They know that if they win, they’re in. So they’re going to be jacked,” said Wigle.

Here’s the abridged version of the complicated scenario that Ottumwa has to weave its way through to play a 10th game.

Bulldog fans — root for Mason City (2-6) to lose at Marshalltown (6-2) and be thankful that Sioux City East (4-5) blasted Council Bluffs Jefferson (2-6) by a score of 42-6 on Thursday. Jefferson, seeded No. 18, is more than likely eliminated from playoff contention after the loss. Mason City is currently the 19th seed on the west side of the state in a fight to crack the 32-team playoff field. The state of Iowa accepts 16 berths on the east and west portions of the geographic landscape.

Ottumwa is seeded No. 20 and Roosevelt is 15th. Sioux City West (No. 16) and Sioux City North (No. 17) essentially sit in the same boat as the Roughriders and Bulldogs. Winner gets in — loser goes home.

Wigle is treating this game like any other.

“It’s no different approach than any other week. We want to win the game. That’s the goal,” said Wigle. “Obviously each game that you play there’s going to be different things at stake.”

Ottumwa had a bye last week and has not played since a 49-31 loss to 10th-ranked Des Moines Lincoln (7-1, 4-0) in the Bulldogs’ final home game. Ottumwa, 2-2 in league play, led 23-13 at one point in the first half of that loss.

Ottumwa played lackluster last year in the final regular season game of 2010 against Des Moines Roosevelt. Like this year, Ottumwa was coming off a bye and topped the Roughriders, 30-18.

What has eluded the Bulldogs this season is a complete game where all facets — offense and defense — click.

“The last couple weeks it’s been about focusing on playing the best game that we can,” said Wigle.

Ottumwa has a serious weapon in its pocket in the form of senior quarterback Ben Kramer. Kramer was electric two weeks ago versus Lincoln — scoring all of Ottumwa’s touchdowns. He bolted to the end zone on an 85-yard kickoff return and scored on touchdown runs of 28, 10 and five yards. Wigle lined up Kramer in the backfield for the first time this year against Lincoln. Handing the ball of to Kramer definitely worked, and Wigle stated that philosophy won’t change against Roosevelt. Kramer is also an explosive threat at wide receiver in addition to his play-making skills as signal caller.

Kramer has accounted for 975 total yards — 274 through the air, 503 on the ground and 198 in receiving.

Ottumwa’s leading rusher is junior fullback Alec Maas (530 yards). Maas is coming on strong and cranked out a season-high 133 yards on the ground versus Lincoln.

Seth Griffiths, also a junior, has piled up 412 yards on the ground. The shifty and compact back has also caught seven balls for 78 yards.

Ottumwa senior Adam VanFleet is tops on the team in receiving with 238 yards on 18 grabs.

Ottumwa senior linebacker Kurtis Miller has registered a team-high 52 tackles – 35 of the solo variety.

Roosevelt receiver Bryant Johnson (26 catches, 470 yards) – the school record holder for receiving yardage in a season at DRHS – is a gifted athlete that junior quarterback Drew Wineski (717 yards passing, 3 TD, 12 INT) can utilize.

That’s if Roughrider head coach Guy Rosenberg decides to throw the ball. Wigle stated Roosevelt will try to run out of the “I” with backs Josh Matthews (418 yards), Demetrius Watson (262 yards) and Clyde McGregor (259 yards). If that doesn’t work Rosenberg will go with his spread attack.

Drake Stadium is named after Johnny Bright — the best football player Drake has ever had suit up in blue and white. He would later go on to play professional football. This past Thursday marked the 60-year anniversary in which Bright, who is black, had to endure vicious hits from his opponent, Oklahoma A&M. The brutal displays of inappropriate physical violence on the playing field – which knocked Bright unconscious three times – exemplified the still deep racial hatred back in the 1950s.

Ottumwa Probable Starting Lineup


QB — Ben Kramer (7) Sr.

TB — Seth Griffiths (34) (Jr.)

FB — Alec Maas (19) Jr.

SE — Kyle Keck (11) Jr.

LG — R.J. Bailey (72) Sr.

RG — John Torres (52) Jr.

C  — Jonah Wright (62) Jr.

LT — Josh Hudnut (65) Soph.

RT — Nick Duree (75) Sr.

TE — Kurtis Miller (17) Sr.

WB — Titus Weller (35) Soph.

 K — Guillermo Rodriguez (43) Soph.


DE — R.J. Bailey (72) Sr.

DE — Ron Forney (44) Sr.

DT — Jonah Wright (62) Jr.

DT — Michael Collins (76) Sr.

LB — Kurtis Miller (17) Sr.

LB — Alec Maas (19) Jr.

LB — Tyler Bramschreiber (24) Jr.

CB — Adam VanFleet (18) Sr.

CB — Zach Messer (16) Sr.

 S — Ben Kramer (7) Sr.

 S — Spencer Hammack (5) Sr.

 P — Ben Kramer (7) Sr.

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