A picturesque late summer night was marred by injuries and a late-game slump for the Oskaloosa Indians as they opened up their 2022 football season on Friday against Ottumwa.
The Indians were the first to crack the scoreboard. After the two teams traded punts to open the game, Osky was set up with a short field and junior quarterback Trevor Willett, making his first career varsity start, heaved a 33 yard pass down the numbers to senior wide receiver Waylon Bolibaugh, who made a circus catch, and two plays later hit junior AJ Lawrence with a quick pop pass and he scampered 13 yards into the end zone. Junior kicker Carter Christensen tacked on the PAT to make it 7-0 in the first quarter.
From there, the injuries started piling up for the Indians. Late in the first quarter, the team lost starting nose tackle Merrick Smith and middle linebacker Wyatt Grubb. Neither returned to the game.
Injuries were one negative trend for the Indians; special teams miscues were another. In the 2nd quarter, the Indians’ defense again stymied the Bulldogs’ offense, but a muffed punt set the Bulldogs up with excellent field position and a few plays later, senior running back Abaya Selema took a pitch 38 yards to the house to tie the game at 7-7.
Oskaloosa would answer with enthusiasm as they then embarked on a 7-play, 65 yard drive capped off by a quick pass to the flat from Willett to sophomore Jake Greenhalgh, who turned upfield and took it to the end zone to retake the lead 14-7. The Indians held on to that lead entering the half, at which point they had outgained the Bulldogs 207 yards to 94.
The start of the second half seemed like the beginning of the Indians’ bout to run away with the game, as they forced a 3-and-out and promptly scored on their first possession of the half with a 23 yard touchdown run courtesy of junior running back JT Baker. A bright moment quickly turned dark, however, when Baker injured himself celebrating with a teammate in the end zone. He would return to the game for a few plays, but exited the game again and did not re-enter. The score turned sour even further when the Indians missed the extra point to hold the score at 20-7. This, unfortunately, would prove to be a meaningful miss.
Oskaloosa still led by 13 entering the fourth quarter, but Ottumwa was still in the game for as long as the big play threat in Selema was still around, and indeed, following an Oskaloosa fumble deep in Ottumwa territory, Selema burst into the secondary and glided 81 yards down the field for his second score of the night. A successful PAT made the game 20-14 with 9:19 left.
The Indians weren’t able to sustain a drive offensively, and were forced to punt the ball back to the Bulldogs with exactly 8 minutes left. On their own 30 yard line, the Bulldogs’ offense understood the assignment: they melted away nearly all of that time on a textbook 12-play, clock-killing drive that saw several third down conversions. With 19 seconds left in the game, senior fullback Cooper Derby got behind his blockers and plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out to tie the game. Kicker Juan Valdes made the pivotal extra point and the Bulldogs shocked the Indians, 21-20.
Ottumwa (1-0) hosts Fairfield next week. Oskaloosa (0-1) will hope to collect their first win at Knoxville.
Trevor Willett: 18/30, 239 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 4 yards lost, 0 fumbles
Waylon Bolibaugh: 1/1, 35 yards
Tanner Schark: 3/10, 39 yards, 1 sack, 9 yards lost, 0 fumbles
Domanic Piersel: 10 carries, 42 yards
JT Baker: 5 carries, 39 yards, TD
Abaya Selema: 12 carries, 171 yards, 2 TD
Cooper Derby: 11 carries, 30 yards, TD
Luke Graeve: 3 carries, 19 yards
Koby Chantalavanh: 6 carries, 15 yards
Tanner Schark: 4 carries, 11 yards
Waylon Bolibaugh: 8 rec, 117 yards
AJ Lawrence: 7 rec, 85 yards, TD
Jake Greenhalgh: 2 rec, 26 yards, TD
Wyatt Grubb: 1 rec, 11 yards
Abaya Selema: 1 rec, 16 yards
Javen Rominger: 1 rec, 15 yards
Luke Graeve: 1 rec, 8 yards
Tatum Westercamp 1.0