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Otters net homecoming win

BRANDON — The Otter Valley football team’s 20-18 win over U-32 on Saturday was extra sweet as the team’s first Homecoming win in five years.
“I made a point to the kids all week that we wanted to change (five years of Homecoming losses),” Coach Jim Hill said. “And they went out there and found a way to win.”
And it wasn’t as easy as Hill had hoped. The Otters were clinging to a 7-6 lead at halftime that could have been larger if it weren’t for mental mistakes that cost the team yardage. The first half was marred by key errors including a high snap on second down that sent OV quarterback Justin Owen scrambling for a recovery and a loss of 10 yards, as well as defensive penalties that negated long gains for the Otters.
Despite the mistakes, the Otters showed they can play to win. Trailing 18-14 with three and a half minutes left in the game, the OV offense orchestrated an impressive drive down the field from the 25-yard line, capped by a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Mike Winslow to make it 20-18. Then, with 40-seconds remaining, the Raiders took possession and OV’s Chad Lonergan intercepted a pass and took a knee to end the game.
“They put together a beautiful drive,” Hills said. “All in all, I didn’t think we played particularly well, but they found a way to win the game, and that is a testament to our character.”
The Otters are now 2-1 in Division II and must prepare for a tough road game against Milton on Friday. Hill said his team will face a much bigger challenge this coming weekend than they did against U-32.
“We can’t play the way we did today against Milton and win,” the coach said.
But the Otters are off to a good start and Hill has an eye toward the playoffs with six games left in the regular season, grateful for the U-32 win.
“You don’t want to start 1-3 or you can kiss the playoffs goodbye,” he said. “It’s a tough division and week in and week out you’ve got to play as hard as you can.”

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