Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cyclones, Broncos turn fortunes around in 2013

By Greg Mast/Herald Sports Editor | 11/1/2013

Doormats no more. For years, Ottawa and Spring Hill has been the only Frontier League football programs not to make the playoffs.

The two programs have turned their fortunes around. Ottawa broke a decade-long playoff drought this season, while Spring Hill is making back-to-back playoffs after breaking the skid last year.

Doormats no more. For years, Ottawa and Spring Hill has been the only Frontier League football programs not to make the playoffs.

The two programs have turned their fortunes around. Ottawa broke a decade-long playoff drought this season, while Spring Hill is making back-to-back playoffs after breaking the skid last year.

The two teams meet 7 p.m. Tuesday in Spring Hill in the bi-district round with one of the teams advancing to the second round. Ottawa won the regular-season game, 20-17.

Ottawa wrapped up its first playoff berth since 2003 with a resounding 40-18 win over Santa Fe Trail Thursday on the Chargers’ home field. It is the first winning season (5-4) since 2003.

“Our goal was to get into the playoffs and make some noise in the playoffs,” Ottawa coach Rob Hedrick said. “A big step right there. It feels really good.

“I am happy for the boys, community, school and students. It was great to see the students here. It was a good night.”

Spring Hill will have something to prove to Ottawa, which has beaten the Broncos the past two years in the regular season.

“They started playing real well at the end of last year,” Hedrick said. “We will practice hard. We will be prepared. The boys are watching film.”

Ottawa used a kickoff return and an interception return for a touchdown to beat the Broncos in week 6.

The seeds were sewn for this playoff run in the off season. Hedrick and the staff talked to the players about their goals. The big one was making the playoffs, a lofty goal since Ottawa has not won many district games in the past 10 years.

Hedrick said he believed in the players.

“I knew they could do it,” Hedrick said. “It is nice seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces. Especially the ones that moved positions and sacrificed so much for the team. That is good stuff.

“They did a great job this summer. The seniors the way they have led. They set the tone. It does not always pay off. They are being rewarded for it. It is good to see the young kids see it, so they know what it is like when they get their shot.”

The confidence grew with each game until the finale.

“I was the only one nervous,” Hedrick said. “The boys were so confident. They knew they would play well. They were ready. They came through.”

The big turnaround has been the offense, especially the ground attack. Ottawa could barely move the ball early in the season. Ottawa has rushed for right at 300 yards in the past two games.

Hedrick said Ottawa was not going to go away from the ground attack when it was struggling early in the season.

“Without it, we can’t get where we want to go,” Hedrick said. “We were going to stick with it until we made it work. The boys worked so hard. The seniors stayed so positive and led in the right way. It is paying off right now.”

Alex Lynch has been the catalyst. He rushed for back-to-back 200-plus games. He had 260 yards against the Chargers.

He was just one of the factors against Santa Fe Trail.

“They did it in several different ways,” Hedrick said. “Isaac [McCullough] threw the ball pretty well. Andre [Lewis} made that nice catch to begin the game. He adjusted to the ball really well.

“He does a lot of things out there. Defenses have to pay attention to him. We have the running game going. Eventually they have to leave him one-on-one out there. We will take advantage of it.”

Ottawa got up 34-6 early in the third quarter when Santa Fe trail scored two straight touchdowns.

“These guys have been down a lot at halftime and always come back to make it a game,” Hedrick said. They did tonight too. The boys responded very well.”

Just like they have through this cinderella season.

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