Otters football make statement versus Bullets
BRANDON — On the first play from scrimmage in Saturday’s Division III football game vs. visiting BFA-Fairfax, Otter Valley Union High School quarterback Carson Leary bobbled a snap that was a little off target, and the Otters lost six yards.
That was about all that went wrong for OV in what was a rematch of the 2014 state championship game, won by the Bullets.
The Otters were undeterred by that second-and-16: Leary soon after ran for 12 yards on fourth-and-one from the BFA 45, and two plays later tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Will Ross at 9:53 of the opening quarter.
That was the first of eight straight Otter touchdowns in what turned into a 54-0 rout. They were never stopped. Late in the second half, all of which was played in running time after OV led at the break, 42-0, OV backup quarterback Colby McKay took a knee three times after the Otters reached the Bullets’ 42.
The Otters, now 2-0, amassed 517 yards of offense, including 469 yards rushing on 41 carries. Leary also completed three of six passes for another 48 yards, all in the first quarter. They held the Bullets to 66 yards and five first downs, seven yards in the second half.
Coach Jim Hill credited his linemen, particularly senior captains and returning starters Trevor Peduto, Tyler Allen and M.J. Denis, who have been joined by senior Matt Wedin and junior Jeremy Frasier.
That group is not only unusually athletic for an offensive line, Hill said, but was also “knocking on the weight room door” as soon as the past season ended, Hill said.
“It comes down to the physicality. We’re just a bigger stronger team this year, and they were bigger and stronger than us last year up front,” Hill said. “Usually the team that wins the battle in the trenches wins the game, and we won the battle in the trenches today.”
Leary, who finished with 163 yards rushing on 16 carries, also pointed to Denis, Peduto and Allen, citing them by their numbers, respectively.
“50, 60 and 70 were the ones that did all the work today. Me and the backfield, we all know that,” Leary said.
Asked about the Otters’ defensive dominance through two games (they allowed 12 points in their opening win), Leary recited the numbers again — Peduto is a linebacker, while Denis and Allen join the six-foot-two, 220-pound Leary on the defensive front.
“The same kids, 60, 70 and 50, they kill it. They’re something,” Leary said. “They’re the heart of the team right now.”
There were plenty of contributors on Saturday. OV’s second score came after junior defensive lineman Erik Sherman recovered a fumble on the BFA 29. Five plays later, it was 14-0. Two of those were a 9-yard pass to junior back Jove Bautista and a 9-yard Bautista run, and the final 5 yards were a Leary run at 7:01 of the first quarter. Bautista finished with six carries for 48 yards.
After an Allen sack helped force a BFA punt, the Otters moved 58 yards in seven plays. Leary ran for 24 yards, Bautista for 13, Leary hit Conor Mackie for 9 yards to the BFA 3, and junior back Brent Nickerson punched it in from there. Daniel Allen added the first of four kicks, and it was 21-0.
BFA then mounted its best threat after an Andrew Shepperd kickoff return to midfield. They managed two first downs, the second on a 23-yard completion on fourth down from QB Kyle Lumbra to Ben Keogh that put the ball on the OV 12. But a fumble and a sack killed the drive.
And OV promptly moved 87 yards on four plays, the last of which was a 69-yard counter in which Nickerson broke tackles before outrunning the defense down the left sideline at 9:32 of the second to make it 28-0. Nickerson finished with 132 yards on five carries and added a sack on defense. At 5:32, Collin Parker (68 yards on six carries) broke a counter to the right for 28 yards, and it was 35-0.
BFA next managed three first downs, but stalled on the OV 25 with 20 seconds left in the half. That was enough time for Leary to break a 75-yard run on first down to make it 42-0 at the break.
In the second half Nickerson added a 45-yard run, and Tyson Cram (58 yards on eight carries) tacked on a 28-yard burst.
Hill praised all the Otters, including what he called the team’s closers, the substitutes.
“It was just a total team effort today, everybody from the offensive line to the running backs to the receivers to the quarterbacks to our closing unit,” he said.
Leary said the Otters take every game seriously, but said this one might have meant a little more.
“We still have that bad taste from that championship game, and I think we wanted to prove something,” he said.
Leary said other than that, the Otters, who have been highly rated as a D-III contender, will take it by the proverbial one game at a time.
“We’re as good as we work. If we keep pushing ourselves, we’ll see how the season goes,” he said. “I’m not looking too far in the future.”
Hill was unafraid to aim high.
“I think we’re the team to beat. It’s up to us. In any given week, anybody can be beat,” he said. “But this group is incredibly focused. They’re determined. Our motto this year is to finish.”